It’s here: the big announcement! After much deliberation, we have determined the recipient of our inaugural Design for Learning Grant. But first, I’d like to say a little bit about why we elected to offer this opportunity in the first place.

We set out to issue the Design for Learning Grant for three reasons:

1) As part of our biennial B-Corp certification review, PlusUs reviews the company’s current social and environmental sustainability practices and defines one or more areas for improvement for the next two years. In our most recent review, we determined that we would like to be doing more work with schools, organizations, and partners in our immediate vicinity. These types of projects allow for deeper, more meaningful relationships, and minimize our carbon footprint. Creating a grant that encouraged local applicants helped us achieve this goal.

2) We understand that in being a fee-for-service firm, we exclude ourselves from certain projects, many of which have amazing potential. In selecting a project for this grant, we considered each organization’s ability to support the project they proposed, and selected a project that would be limited without our involvement, thereby allowing the recipient to do more with less.

3) We believe that design can have a powerful impact on the way we teach and learn. From its ability to influence culture, physical space, the way we teach, and the way we tell our stories, powerful things happen at the intersection of design and learning. We sought opportunities to showcase this in a very explicit way.

When we offered this grant, our intention was to select a single recipient. However, we found this to be an agonizing decision. We were thoroughly impressed with the quality of each finalist’s application, as well as the thoughtfulness and preparedness of each finalist in the site visit.

So how did we choose? We didn’t. We picked all of them.

The four grant recipients are listed below, along with brief descriptions of their projects:

The Center for Architecture and Design
We would like to design a program that engages K-12 students in order to (1) increase awareness and appreciation of the built environment among students and (2) support minority students in their educational and professional pursuits in the fields of architecture and design.

Friends’ Central School
We hope to expand maker-education at FCS by transforming unused or underutilized spaces into Makernooks– mini makerspaces designed to provide tools, materials, and space for teachers and students to engage with making outside of the main makerspace. The Makernooks will help cultivate a decentralized maker culture that is not bound by the walls of the physical makerspace. This, ultimately, is the goal of maker education: not to merely offer occasional exposure to tools and materials, but to empower students to take an active role in their educational experience.

Mercy Career and Technical High School
[Our project] was born out of a mission to introduce Design Thinking to all classes and create more opportunities for cross-curricular projects within our school community. As a high school that provides both an academic and a career & technical education, it is of the utmost importance that we have a curriculum and space that allows for all different learning types and teaching styles to shine in all class scenarios. [A] new MakerSpace [will] provide an environment for cross-curricular project learning to be planned, designed, and executed. Having this space available will increase our ability to cater to each student’s learning style preference.

Perkiomen Valley Middle School East
Our proposed project is to transform our dated school library into a 21st century Learning Commons. With a human-centered design approach, we seek to create a space that urges exploration, dreaming, seeking and the construction of knowledge— all of which honor the innate desire of children— of all human beings to learn, grow and develop in ways that are personally and socially beneficial.

Because these projects share some common ideas and end goals, we will be providing these recipients with the opportunity to connect with each other. Each recipient has knowledge and experience that we do not, and we believe they may be able to benefit from each other’s insights and support.

We are genuinely excited to help each of these projects come to life, and plan to share regular updates here on our blog, and our social media channels. We look forward to sharing the journey with you.