Greater Good Studio Redesigns “Everything But The Food” in AGC’s Cafeteria

12 Apr

Greater Good Studio founders George and Sara Aye partnered with students at the Art Institute of Chicago to redesign an elementary school cafeteria from the point of view of a child.

In her presentation, Sara answers the question “what does design have to do with social change?” Sara explains that research changes design, design changes behavior and behavior changes the world. At AGC, we believe wholeheartedly in this philosophy and work with design partners like Greater Good and Cannon Design/ The Third Teacher +  to develop a school environments that fosters creativity, environmental stewardship and international mindedness and encourages student learning, healthy choices and community involvement.

“We believe that behavior changes the world. The world is changed not through grand sweeping actions but through lots and lots and lots of little changes that add up over time to big change. It all hinges on behavior.”

For this project, SAIC students, Greater Good staff and researchers from the University of Chicago set out to make a more “user friendly” school cafeteria. To focus their research and project, they needed to identify a school that would allow them to set aside the issue of healthy vs. unhealthy food choices and focus purely on the interactions… which is where AGC comes in. “We looked for a school where we didn’t have to worry about health,” Sara Aye said while presenting this project at an Interaction Design Association conference in January, “a magical unicorn school where all the food was healthy… and it actually exists!” Greater Good started by observing lunch and noticed right away that all the adults in the room were working hard to encourage students to eat, so they decided their project would focus on a simple question: “how do we get kids to eat more and waste less?”

The challenge, Sara says, is that “when you’re a kid, the world is not designed for you.” To truly adopt the perspectives of all stakeholders, researchers and students spend hours with staff, conducted at-home interviews, mounted cameras to students foreheads and took time-lapse photography of the entire cafeteria operation. They were interested in increasing the time that students had to choose items, the number of times students tried different foods, and the appreciation of individual items.

Greater Good found that by changing the way we serve, removing the lunch line and serving food from a cart in four courses, students eat more of each item that might have otherwise been left on their tray, they have more time to choose and staff have more control over the. They also designed tables that fold up, colorful “light” clouds that give the room a different feel during mealtimes and when the room is being use for other purposes and will continue to study and observe as the new cafeteria program is implemented.

We would like to thank Greater Good and their partners for the thoughtful study of our cafeteria experience.

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