The Hand: Kinesthetic Creation and the Contemporary Classroom

By Catherine Dowling.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper recounts the advantages of university students hand building full scale construction mockups based on their proposed design solutions in a course where the primary focus is on materials and methods.
Following five years of an evolving curriculum and teaching methodology in a Design Technology course, students’ learning is heightened through kinesthetic creation while addressing regional interior architecture, global sustainability and closed loop construction systems.
The course assignment, ‘between inside and out, threshold construction’, examines issues of sustainability, materiality and detail. It develops design thinking and kinesthetic creation with hand building.
‘If human need is the place to start, then design thinking rapidly moves on to learning by making…instead of thinking what to build, building in order to think...’ Students prepare a design solution for a ‘space between’ existing interior volumes using model building. First studies begin with corrugated cardboard combined with hand sketches and research focused on the ecological impact of the proposed building material lifecycle including ‘harvest’, manufacturing, production, installation, LEED material credits, maintenance, potential reuse, recycling through to disposal. Final full-scale construction mock-ups are completed using real building materials and methods.
This closed loop assignment exposes students to the issues of sustainability and construction detailing through tactile learning. The final models are retained for use by the following Design Technology class to examine, prepare detailed sketch drawings and dismantle, providing a reverse kinesthetic creation in the form of demolition.
Research connects educational theories, learning models based on kinesthetic creation, framing a recommendation for wider use of teaching with the hand within elementary and secondary public school curriculum.
‘The desire to learn is reshaped continuously as we fashion our own personal laboratory for making things.’
(1 Brown, T., TED talks, July 2009, big.html
2 Wilson, F., The Hand, Toronto, Random House of Canada, 1998, p.295.)

Keywords: Kinesthetic Creation, Design Thinking, Constructionism

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp.51-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.119MB).

Prof. Catherine Dowling

Assistant Professor, School of Interior Design, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Catherine completed a Master of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto following degrees in Architecture and Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo, a degree in Interior Design at the University of Manitoba and study at Arcosanti in Arizona. As an Intern Architect and registered Interior Designer her teaching, research and practice is founded on design and construction excellence, design thinking, with an emphasis on the process of making. Her collaborative studio Dowling Architects has received the Ontario Association of Architects 2006 Honourable Mention for Architectural Excellence, the 2007 and 2011 Wood Works award, and been published widely. Catherine’s academic research explores the relationship between design and learning, the realm of the handmade and the impact of kinesthetic creation on the processes of critical thinking, learning, education and cultural design literacy.


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