Tucked away amidst the hustle and bustle of College Drive, lies a Baton Rouge institution that is truly making a difference in the lives of the children it serves, as well as in the lives of Episcopal Upper School students who have partnered with the Center in class projects this year. The McMains Children’s Developmental Center provides a range of services to help children of all abilities live, work, and play independently. The staff offer occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language therapy, in addition to support services for the entire family. However, there’s much more to the Center than meets the eye.
Walk around the building and you’ll find a brightly colored flower garden set at just the right height to be wheelchair accessible. There’s a playground, an elaborate playhouse, and a peaceful gazebo. Inside, there is a specially built rock climbing wall and a quiet space for children who need time to process their world.
A tour with Kim Haynes, MA, CCC-SLP, the Center’s Clinical and Operations Director, also includes a trip to the Inclusion House. What happens inside this big red house is magical. It is in this house, which looks like a child-sized version of the average home, that therapists help families and children discover opportunities for the children to be a true part of their family and their environment. Families learn to take everyday objects and adapt them to their child’s needs. For example, by simply connecting objects to a switch, the child’s world opens up and they are then able to operate a blender, a can opener or even take part in family game night.
Upper School students enrolled in Episcopal’s NuVuX Design Studio courses have had the pleasure of being involved in the McMains Children’s Developmental Center magic this year. Early in the year, students spent time at the Center to observe the work being done and the assistance needed. Like most guests who walk the halls of the facility, the students were inspired by what they saw and the people they met. Upon their return to Woodland Ridge, they began to brainstorm ways that Design Studio projects could help.
What resulted were designs befitting the Center’s practices of making therapy fun. One such design was Blow Boats. Episcopal students Brice Frierson and Jack Morganti were inspired to create a boat racing track after meeting a child with a passion for boating. Their device allows a child in a wheelchair to race boats using a fan adapted to a simple switch. Frierson and Morganti added a tiny garden to the center of the device so that when the boats are not racing, the device blends in with the garden’s surroundings. Upon hearing about Blow Boats, the Center staff were so impressed that they invited the students to install the device permanently in the Center’s garden. The staff also hopes to receive the other NuVuX devices for the children to use.
“I love working with high school students,” said Anne Hindrichs, LCSW, Center Executive Director. “It showcases the tapestry of connectivity that exists as these students visit with our children and become inspired to get involved. It’s exciting to see the projects evolve from a concept to reality and it’s exciting to see the joy in the children’s faces as they get to use the designs.”
For Brice, the Design Studio experience has been personally significant in many ways. Click here to read his project brief where he describes how his NuVuX experience is something he’ll never forget.
The Blow Boats installation is just one example of the Design Studio’s possibilities. Episcopal students also created Kids Mist: a device to allow children to engage in water activities; DRAwER: a device to assist children with opening drawers and cabinets; Dogger: a fun game for kids with limited mobility; and Geaux Throw: a device that allows a child in a wheelchair to throw a ball. Watch the video below to see seniors Cameron Dumas and Noah Dupree demonstrating their Geaux Throw device.
To learn more about all of the Episcopal student innovations click here.
NuVu Studios was created by MIT graduates Saeed Arida, Saba Ghole and David Wang. The program uses the architectural studio as the mode of teaching Upper School and Middle School students. It is geared around multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects. There is a full-time school in Cambridge, Massachusetts for middle and high school students in addition to the NuVuX program, which is offered locally at Episcopal. NuVu provides any needed engineering instruction and students apply what they have learned from mainstream Episcopal academic classes. Studio students are presented with open-ended questions or challenges and asked to identify innovative tools or processes to solve them or improve upon them while working in collaborative groups. Each studio features equipment including a laser cutter, 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, a workshop and even a sewing machine and fully stocked electronics cabinet to help students make their designs a reality.
Episcopal Design Studio students will have the opportunity to celebrate their impact, and Easter, with the McMains Children’s Developmental Center’s children at the end of March. Students will be on hand for the Center’s annual egg hunt and to see how the children interact with their designs. What a great way to see a design come to life! What a powerful way to make a difference in the lives of others!
Want to learn more about the NuVuX Design Studio? Don’t miss the final showcase for this school year, which is scheduled for Thursday, May 3rd from 8:45 am to 2:30 pm in the Upper School Student Center.