BloomBox 1.0 [URBAN]
New Beginnings Secondary School
On July 15, 2021, the BloomBox Initiative, in partnership with Water Wells for Africa (WWFA) and New Beginnings Secondary School (NBSS) in Blantyre, Malawi, launched a prototype BloomBox Learning Lab. The proof of concept lab, which is composed of an upcycled front-opening shipping container with bright and welcoming work spaces, solar panels, 20 laptop computers and headphones for student use, digital projectors, speakers, and overhead panels that create an indoor-outdoor learning environment, was assembled in and shipped from Vancouver, Canada, to New Beginnings Secondary School, a secondary school with limited access to electricity and digital resources.
The lab was unpacked and reassembled as a free-standing building at a focal point on the school’s campus. The shipping container provided an immediately usable and secure structural core at the center of a multiuse foundation and sheltered by an angled roof supporting the solar panels..
The Lab is a hub for education technology, and NBSS administration and faculty determine the way it is incorporated in student life, based on curricular priorities. Solar power consumption studies and surveys at 6 and 12 months post implementation have demonstrated high levels of usage by students at all levels and across a diversity of subjects, high student and teacher satisfaction, and improved examination scores and school completion rates.
Design Considerations: Instruction, Workflow, and Hidden Curriculum
A fundamental principle of the BloomBox Initiative is that the design of educational spaces influences educational experience. This perspective applies to core design concepts such as sustainability, energy, and structure. It also includes layout, lighting, interior design, and technology. The BloomBox is designed holistically, to be a secure hub for educational activity, exchange of ideas, and continuous exploration.
Students can work synchronously with teachers, or asynchronously (with or without headphones) using videos and other forms of media. Sheltered spaces around the BloomBox can be used to expand the classroom, or as a space for informal and unstructured educational and social activities, or for performances.
The BloomBox is primarily designed to advance STEAM curricula, but also to shape cultures that spark interest and involvement in STEAM. Using computers to access high value digital resources for assignments or self-directed learning supports a hidden curriculum - students with little access to technology gain familiarity and sophistication in the navigation of digital environments and begin to use the tools as part of their own diverse pursuits.