I worked with Sriya on this exercise to think about how to create a big data exercise kids that would be relevant to their interests. We started by brainstorming on different things that little kids would like - we came up with topics like bugs, pets, dinosaurs, and more along with activities like playing and physical movement. These were the inspiration for the next stage of our brainstorm, which was to come up with ideas for what kids could do.
After reviewing the topics, we both ranked the ones we liked and decided that making a tree from recycled paper to build a 'forest' was our choice for the exercise. The topic of the environment came up because New York City is a densely populated urban area that doesn't have very many trees with the exception of the parks and that produces a great deal of waste.
Concept Evolution and Challenges
The first concept looked like this:
- The kids would make a tree out of recycled goods
- They would then place it on on a map
We played with the idea of them making a tree that they see everyday, but Sriya brought up the point that the closest tree they may see may not be one that's close to their house. It could be one by the school for example, and there might be some struggle with remembering what it looks like. We also would have to deal with the challenge of mapping visitors who are only visiting NYC and live somewhere else.
In this version of the concept, the kid would not be able to take the tree home with them, which would be a very nice souvenir for them. We would have to find some way to capture the tree and keep it on the map so that other kids could see what kind of tree they made and so that they can see their contribution live on.
Additional ideas included
- Provide leaves and samples of what native trees in New York might look like to help inspire them
- Create this as an offshoot of the Maker Lab so that kids can use LEDs and other electronics to make their trees more fun and personalized
- When the kid puts their tree on the map, we could show project the old forests that used to be where NYC was
We were pointed to the Weilikia Project, which shows what the land that New York City is on looked like before the city was built. We also used the Street Tree Census data sets from NYC Open Data to see where there are trees currently in the city
Next Steps and Feedback
All of our ideas combined would put us out of the scope of creating an activity and more in the realm of an exhibit, so paring down the feature set would be our next move. We'd then have to test the activity with a small group to see if the activity covers the following criteria:
- Is the activity entertaining?
- Do the kids know where their nearest tree is and can remember what it looks like?
- Is there something meaningful for them to put the tree on the map?
- Are they learning about the world around them and thinking about the environment?
The activity itself was a lot of fun! Design brainstorms like this are some of my favorite activities as a UX designer. Admittedly I know nothing about that age group, so some research would be necessary to understand what/if kids at that age are being taught about recycling. It's something I'd like to do again