Project H Design Gives Students Voice Through Making

The founder of Project H Design writes about her experience in teaching design.

In the past few years, my job title has evolved from “Founder of the nonprofit Project H Design” to “high school shop teacher.” Some of you may be familiar with the work of Project H, and our high school design/build program Studio H. More than anything, we believe that youth have a raw brilliance that, coupled with some creative and construction skills, can change the face of the towns and cities we live in. We’ve built a 2,000-sq.ft. farmers market in rural North Carolina, and now our students in Berkeley, California, are building a solution for their school community: a free-standing classroom space using renovated / redesigned shipping containers, sculptural roof trusses, and a lot of sweat equity. In order to get there, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund our material costs. Please consider backing the project as our students prepare to hit the ground running in the next few weeks! Here’s what you’ll find on our Kickstarter campaign page: We are Studio H at REALM Charter School in Berkeley, California: One hands-on class, two teachers who know how to design and build, and twenty eager 10th-grade students who want to make our school and community a better place.

Because our first responsibility is to the REALM school community, our current Studio H cohort has proposed, designed, and will build an 800-sq. ft. classroom space. In direct response to the needs of our facilities-constrained charter school, our class will put our heads, hands, hammers, welders, saws, and laser cutter to use to build a solution for our school ourselves. The classroom we build will serve our own student community as instructional space, as well as flexible space for dining, congregating, meetings, and after-school activities. Studio H is a different kind of classroom: we seek to grow the creativity, critical thinking, citizenship, and capital necessary to both propel young people into productive futures, and to provide communities with the infrastructure and vision necessary to thrive. Within the structure of REALM, a public charter school, our students apply core subject learning to design and build contextually responsive and socially transformative public architecture projects. Using everything from X-acto blades to chop saws and digital fabrication tools, Studio H gives students a voice through making, and makes ideas real for collective benefit.

Emily Pilloton is founder and executive director of Project H Design, a 501c3 entity, co-founder and instructor at Studio H, director of design at REALM Charter School.

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