A Learning Experience Designed by the Learner for the Learner

A junior at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Massachusetts, named Sam Levin, noticed something about his school that didn’t sit well with him: While students were learning a lot of new information about various subjects, there was very little mastery or engagement within the school’s walls. As many of you know, a lack of engagement leads to dissatisfied individuals, whether we are talking about school, work, sports – anything.  Sam also noticed that he and fellow students were memorizing dates and names but weren’t exactly learning things like how to gather or create their own data, which is a most applicable skill these days.

We live in a world that is not only changing dramatically, it is changing constantly. And a desire to learn and keep on learning is an important approach for anyone’s success. Sam didn’t like the learning “design” that was offered so he went about building a better method for himself and a number of classmates. (more…)

Rewarding People with a Choice that Awards

Mind if I tell you another alarming statistic about plastic consumption and waste? (Those of you who follow Naked Civics know that I address this issue now and then). OK here goes: 15,000 beverage bottles and cans are littered or landfilled in Australia every single minute.

Yep, every minute.

The city of Sydney, Australia has designed a very interesting concept that will hopefully aid in addressing this serious issue. Located on two corners of the city’s streets are what are called Envirobank reverse vending machines.  These aren’t your everyday recycling containers, however; they dispense prizes in exchange for your recyclables. (more…)

E-Care: The 21st Century’s Dose of Medicine

It’s a good year for the progress of health care. A couple weeks ago I wrote about the Robert Wood Johnson’s new initiative, Flip the Clinic, which is a very cool initiative indeed. I’ve written about a few other cool designs that promote health, too, but today’s topic of note is how iPads are revolutionizing the way we receive care.

Just like many other sectors, health care has actually turned into something that can be done remotely. Now, before you scoff at a doctor’s “visit” via Skype, consider what this means for people that have a hard time getting to the doctor, or for those who have tight finances and cannot afford a one-on-one visit but need some personalized insight from a health care provider. And for primary care givers like the friendly general practitioner you see in a clinic, this tool can significantly aid their increasingly jammed work settings. (more…)

Gardening on Your Commute: The New Kind of Urban Gardens

Urban gardens have been sprouting up all over the world, many residing on apartment rooftops or in small community garden spaces. Tokyo is taking the concept of gardening to a whole new level by offering community gardens at one of the busiest places (if not the busiest) in the city: The train stations.

That’s right, community gardens have taken root on the tops of five train stations throughout the city. Offering up little plots for commuters to grow their greens, this concept is like a city park/community garden hybrid. It takes advantage of unused space while providing some of Tokyo’s city dwellers with something they may be yearning for.


Refining your Health, One Sip at a Time

Literacy can be a very powerful tool.

How much do you know about the beverage in your hand? Do you know how much protein is in your bottle of Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino Coffee? If so, do you understand it in the context of what is recommended for your daily protein intake?

To some, the answer is a resounding YES to the above questions. Indeed, there are some who are very health conscious and have a specific literacy. For the vast majority, however, we could use a little awareness in our drinking habits. And so for the rest of us semi-literates out there, here’s a new product that will really help:

Vessyl is a revolutionary drinking cup that provides you with an analysis of what is inside. Sensors read the liquid within and when you pick up your cup, the exterior lights up and tells you exactly what you’re consuming. Instant literacy! (more…)

Flipping Health Care on its Head

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the oldest and largest foundation dedicated to the public’s health in America. Their storied history is full of impactful initiatives that have lasting legacy. And while there are plenty of current ideas in the works at the Foundation, I want to highlight one in particular: Flip the Clinic. This project aims to redesign the experience between patients and health care providers and it couldn’t come at a better time.

Perhaps you’ve experienced a visit to the doctor’s office that goes like this: You’re a few minutes early but you regret that you didn’t bring War and Peace as you sit and wait until you’re directed to an exam room where you wait a bit more. The doctor comes in and he or she is kind, pleasant but obviously harried because he or she is jammed to the max with 22 patients to see and four hours of paperwork waiting for him or her after the long day. Perhaps you hit the highlights but you and your doctor don’t have the time to get to everything. It’s a dissatisfying experience for you and you’d be right in assuming that it’s dissatisfying for you doctor as well. (more…)

A Sunny Solution for a Shady Problem

Common sense would lead you to believe that solar panels discriminate against not-so-sunny places. The operative word is “solar,” right?  So you folks who experience clouds more than a little bit of the time (hello Washington and Oregon!) may feel left out of the party while those in sunny climes like Arizona and Florida are soaking up the rays. Beyond sunny and rainy places, however, one thing everyone has had to think about when determining solar panel effectiveness is shade. Any home that has trees hovering over it may enjoy some respite from the sun but if sporting solar panels, it will gain little in the way of our nearby star’s immense power.

It just so happens that a little shade can have a big impact on solar panels. This Fast Co Exist piece says that even just a three percent shade coverage of solar panels leads to a loss of 25 percent of power. That’s a pretty negative exchange rate for just a smidgen of shade. (more…)

An Air Pollution Solution that Stands Tall and Casts a Shadow of Brilliance

Said to be the “next World Fair,” the Milan Expo 2015 is a Universal Exposition that the eco-conscious will undoubtedly be flocking to. The theme is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, and the Expo will focus on the problems of nutrition and the world’s dwindling resources. And while there will be quite the focus on culinary education (we’re talking Italy, after all), one notable piece of the next World Fair actually revolves around the overabundance of a “resource” called air pollution.

A six-story structure called Palazzo Italia is launching at the Milan Expo. But this just isn’t another piece of pretty Italian design. This building will be made out of smog-eating cement, a biodynamic material that removes pollutants from the air.  (more…)

A Plant-Promoting Plastic

Have you heard of the Garbage Patch State? It is a federally recognized state that resides in the middle of the oceans (North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Indian Ocean, to be exact) and is made out of plastic waste. These five islands were created by plastic waste getting sucked into vortices and creating large masses of plastic, smack dab in the middle of the oceans. Marine life not only gets stuck in these masses but they also eat the plastic, which we then end up consuming ourselves. In other words, this isn’t exactly the circle of life that will sustain us. (more…)

A Farm Inside of a City Inside of a Farm

Picture this: 22 acres of lush farmland bustling with orchards and vegetable gardens. Spread throughout the sprawling green space are 45 big … villas? Yes, it sounds strange, but the concept is cool beyond words. French architect Vincent Callebaut has conceptualized a gorgeous design to connect a city to the farm that sustains it.

Want to be even more surprised?  This design is to be constructed in China. Yes, the same country in which another design was recently introduced where a bubble full of fresh air would envelop a city because of the dangerously bad air quality. Due to congestion and poor air quality, urbanites in China have started to ditch the cities and re-populate rural areas. And Callebaut’s concept intends to combat this urban exodus by creating a city in the middle of a rural sprawl. I know, “rural sprawl” sounds like any oxymoron but we are talking about China, where a population of 1.5 billion can create sprawl in the most counterintuitive of spaces. (more…)