May 27, 2017

Vermont Day School partners with Seventh Generation on design challenge

Williston Observer contributed photo Children from Vermont Day School were challenged by Seventh Generation, a company that created sustainable products, to create their own products.

Williston Observer contributed photo
Children from Vermont Day School were challenged by Seventh Generation, a company that created sustainable products, to create their own products.

By Sage Bagnato

Special to the Observer

Every spring, Vermont Day School collaborates with a local business to create a real-world, design thinking challenge for their students. Recently, the school teamed up with Seventh Generation, a mission-focused company that creates sustainable products for families and homes. To initiate the project, students visited the Seventh Generation headquarters in Burlington, where they toured the facility, learned about the company’s mission and observed green chemistry experiments in action.

Nearing the end of the field visit, Brendan Taylor, Marketing Director, presented the students with their challenge: to create a line of products for youth, consistent with Seventh Generations principles of sustainability.

Students worked collaboratively throughout the week to brainstorm ideas for sustainable youth products and design and build their prototypes. “We had a lot of ideas,” said one second grader. She continued, “The hardest part was narrowing down which one we wanted to go with and figuring out how to make the ingredients and packaging good for the environment.”

Marie Fetters, K/1st grade teacher added, “At Vermont Day School, we do a lot of projects where students are inspired to think out of the box, be creative and work together to solve a problem or challenge. It is impressive to see what children as young as five and six years old are capable of when given the chance.”

While the partnership provided an authentic learning opportunity for students, the project was intended to be beneficial to Seventh Generation as well. As described by Chris Lyon, Seventh Generation’s Director of Community Outreach, “The project benefited us in so many ways. The children offered a fresh and unique perspective to product development and our employees benefited greatly from hearing from those with lived experience.”

The student-designed products ranged from stand-alone items, such as glow-in-the-dark soap and multi-layered rainbow hand wash, to more comprehensive product lines, including a beach kit and summer/winter kit. Each product was developed following the design process, with the intention of being practical, targeted to youth and good for the environment.

At the end of the week, students returned to Seventh Generation to present their concepts. One idea was particularly appealing to the Seventh Generation team — “The Kid Car Wash Kit.” As described by its creators, the eco-friendly Car Wash Kit “is equipped with environmentally friendly soap, a bamboo towel, squirt guns made with recycled plastic and packaged in a reusable bucket.”

Following the project presentations, Taylor commented, “Two things really stood out for me – the first was the insight the kids brought to their projects. Thanks to that lens, we got ideas that adults simply wouldn’t have considered. The other thing that stood out was the kids’ understanding of sustainability. The kids ‘got’ that we only have one Earth and we need to take care of it.”

Lyon added, “The kids showed so much creativity. Their proposals were remarkably presented and their enjoyment of the process was evident.”

Having pioneered two successful partnerships, first with Burton Snowboards and now with Seventh Generation, Vermont Day School plans to continue collaborating with local businesses. Libby Macdonald, Director of Admissions said“Providing students with meaningful and relevant learning experiences is a hallmark of Vermont Day School. What better way to prepare students for the real world, than by immersing them in it?”

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