Biologically Inspired Sustainable Building Design Challenges for Middle School Engineers: Expanding the Educational Reach of the Living Building at Georgia Tech

Organized by: CEISMC and Center for Biologically Inspired Design

The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design will have an impact far greater than the Georgia Tech community—it is meant to transform the entire Southeastern United States. One way to impact our region, and in particular our state, is to engage with K-12 schools. These students are the next generation of thinkers and doers who will one day be responsible for upholding the principles of the Living Building Challenge. Georgia Tech's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing's (CEISMC) Sabrina Grossman, Program Director in Science Education, and Mike Helms, CEISMC Research Scientist worked with Amanda Reding, a participant in the GIFT Program, to create an outreach curriculum pertaining to The Kendeda Building. This curriculum connects the State of Georgia’s teaching standards directly with biologically-inspired elements of the Living Building Challenge to help guide students’ understanding of how nature and science can help solve the many challenges of achieving Living Building Challenge certification. By state standards into the lessons, this curriculum provides an easily accessible path for students across Georgia to “visit” the building without ever leaving their classroom.

Overcoming Obstacles
Elementary, middle, and high school teachers are faced with rigorous, state-mandated grade-level teaching requirements that they have to fulfill on an expedited time-table. This requirement makes it a challenge for educators to adopt a special lesson plan unless it directly connects with their mandated teaching requirements. Knowing this, Sabrina, Mike, and Amanda sifted through the volume of content pertaining to the Living Building Challenge and found connections to the state curriculum mandates.  The connections forged between the Living Building Challenge requirements and state requirements demonstrated the presence of the inherent biology and nature within The Kendeda Building.

Making The Kendeda Building Accessible to Students
One petal of the Living Building Challenge is Equity, and included within Equity is accessibility – or rather the ability for all to engage with and enjoy the building. The Kendeda Building is not only meant for Georgia Tech but for the entire Southeast. The classroom content produced by CEISMC, in keeping with the Equity Petal accessibility requirement, needed to be available to students across the state of Georgia. The lesson plans and materials will be free of charge to any teacher and accessible through the internet. Additionally, John Thornton, Academic Professional and Coordinator of the Video Production Lab in the College of Ivan Allen, is creating video content that will feature the building and provide an additional element of being able to “visit” the building from afar. Another tool being designed within the School of Industrial and System Engineering are cards that demonstrate the biologically-inspired building blocks of the building. These cards will be an additional visualization tool to engage students.

The first iteration of the curriculum “Animals in Action” – written for the 7th grade –  is currently being tested with plans to adapt the curriculum for 6th and 8th grade students. Eventually all grades from kindergarten through 12th grade will have a one-week long science lesson plan that directly connects grade level curriculum to the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design.

Because these materials are available for teachers state-wide, students in rural Georgia who may never have the opportunity to travel to Atlanta will still be able to “visit” and engage with the Kendeda building!  

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