Summer Kids’ Challenge on Design & Sustainability

What have you got planned for summer? Why not try out our 4-week, 4-project challenge with the kids in your life?

summer challenge
week three’s project covers re-use and closing the loop. Multi-generational, shared dress from Kate Fletcher’s Local Wisdom project

The projects help introduce the design and technology of sustainability (or “resilience,” if you prefer) to kids. We pictured 4 to 12 year olds doing these projects, led by an adult, but the projects could also suit teenagers. Each project challenges you to observe, question, and make design proposals for sustainability. Download it now (about 4MB PDF)

summer challenge
week four’s project looks at cooling the city: Chicago city hall’s green roof and New York’s “nopark”

The projects cover waste and reuse, green spaces (urban cooling), energy use, and nature’s design. There’s an element of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) which can be played up or down depending on your interests, along with the “A” for art and design!

P.S. we’ve gotten social. We have a facebook page and some pinterest boards

Do these images improve energy literacy?

The “Public Energy Art Kit” contains 14 posters that try to raise awareness of climate change, energy inequality and fossil fuel dependency. See all the posters here.

This one’s called “Energy Slaves” by Hugh D’Andrade.

energy slaves by Hugh D'Andrade

The poster examines how much energy we generate with our bodies compared to how much energy we consume daily. A grown man, working continuously, produces about 75 to 100 watts of power. Whereas, “In one day, the average American burns up the energetic equivalent of 100 men working 24/7 to enable the cozy lifestyle offered by our modern civilization.” Our energy-powered “labor saving” devices are the equivalent of  an army of energy slaves.

Another poster, by Jacob Arden McClure, addresses “energy sprawl” and how much physical space our energy system takes up. “When done right, renewable energy can help reduce energy sprawl.”

energy sprawl poster by Jacob Arden McClure

Take a look at all the posters and see if there are a few you can use.

National plan to educate for sustainability

Two great groups have just launched the National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability.


The Center for Green Schools and the US Green Building Council make recommendations for formally including sustainability in all US education so that “by 2040, every student graduating from a U.S. K-12 school will be equipped to shape a more sustainable future.”

We haven’t had time to read the plan but the exec summary shows there are a lot of steps in it. Many involve training teachers. An early goal (June 2014) is to establish the United States Teacher Education for Sustainable Development Network.

Also Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt (a mega publishing company) is a partner, so it’s good to see books and other educational materials are in play.

Applause all around, and we’ll keep an eye on it with you.

6 ways bicycles teach resilience

320px-Bicycle_wheel_01Bicycles = sustainable transportation, right? But there are (at least) 5 other ways bicycles can teach us about resilience.


I recenlty dragged my road bike out of the shed after a very long winter’s rest. A bit of work on the front wheel hub and brakes, and within about 20 minutes it was ready to go. This hands-on accessibility is part of what makes bicycles so empowering. We can see, understand and manage how they work–something you can talk about with even younger kids. What does pedaling do? What makes the wheel stop?


The basic form of bicycle is pretty standard…or is it? One of our aims with the Kids Future Press inaugural title, Bicycles, Airships and Things that Go, is to show the existing wide range of bicycle types and how bikes are a great site for innovation–something we need more of for long term resilience! Materials, frame structures, method of operation are all up for reinvention. Here are a few examples:


The Fliz bike prototype from German designers
Tom Hambrock and Juri Spetter


Yojiro Oshima, of Craft & Industrial Design
Department at Musashino Art University in
Tokyo, made this wooden bike


IDEO worked with frame-builder Rock Lobster
to reimagine the utility bike, with interchangeable
front racks and a very discreete electric motor.


Seattle company Valid Cycles builds
custom bamboo bicycles.

What can bikes carry? What can they be made out of? How else can we propel ourselves on 2 wheels? These are some questions to ask ourselves and our kids.


As part of green travel, bicycles are connected to buildings and streets. Buildings will have to make more room for bikes, both inside and out. Statistics show that cycling is taking off across America, with a 50% increase in the numbers commuting by bike between 2000 and 2011.

Look around the places you visit– where can we park bikes? How should bike parking look? Which part of the street or side”walk” is available to bikes? Meanwhile bicycle safety helps us learn about diverse areas such as lighting, visibility and design against crime.


Helios handle bars with built in lights and a smart bluetooth
connection: turns any bike into a traceable smart bike


Cycling is only as practical as it is culturally acceptable. Can we dress normally when we ride bikes? Do our clothes make it comfortable to ride a bike and look stylish? Observe what cyclist wear and carry. . . and ask–why? Specialist clothing companies like Iva Jean, Telaio Clothing and Sonia McBride all design fashionable women’s clothes that perform well on a bike. So cycling fashion, particularly clothes, bags, and helmets, is also connected to resilience.


zip pencil skirt for cycling by Iva Jean


Research on cycling repeatedly shows that it has multiple physical and mental health benefits. Even kids can feel that cycling is energizing, but did you know that it increases longevity, is good for your heart and other muscles, improves your coordination and balance, stimulates your mental health and supports your immune system? There are a range of good articles about this on Bikeradar, Discovery, Bicycling, Better Health Victoria (Australia). Plus, it’s a fun activity to do with a group, which builds social capital.

So — how does bicycling make us healthy and happy? What does it feel like to bike somewhere versus walking or riding in the car?


So get those bikes into your observations and discussions of resilience with your kids. Bicycles teach about:

  • basic mechanics and DIY
  • innovation
  • urban design and safety
  • green transport
  • fashion
  • health