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Branksome Hall Asia: Leaders in Design Thinking

Nestled just off the coast of South Korea sits the region’s most popular holiday site – Jeju Island.

Well-known for its tumbling waterfalls, velvet-sand beaches, and Hallasan – the dormant shield volcano that stirs constant fascination – the enclave is rife with biodiversity and stunning natural wonder.

At the beating heart of the island’s education scene, Branksome Hall Asia, an IB World girls’ school guides and inspires students from Junior Kindergarten Prep to Grade 12 with its commitment to female empowerment and shaping a better world.

“Dedicated to [providing] exemplary educational programs, our students grow as globally minded learners and leaders prepared for the challenges and opportunities they will meet in a rapidly changing independent world,” says Dr. Beverley von Zielonka, Principal of Branksome Hall Asia

But this school does so much more than just develop high academic achievers, believing also in developing well-rounded individuals who are able to take on leadership roles in the future and who become responsible global citizens.

“Our educational journey promises to support each student to discover within themselves a strong voice, to take risks and step outside their comfort zones, and the power to lead lives of curiosity, empowerment, service to others, and personal fulfilment,” continues Dr. Beverley von Zielonka.

Intent on creating graduates who are confident and inquisitive, Branksome Hall Asia’s Design Program has evolved into an investigative course that teaches students to identify and solve complex design issues. As a fundamental component of the Middle Years Program (MYP), the design program challenges Branksome Hall Asia girls, encouraging them to use cutting-edge, emerging technologies to solve real-world problems at both the local and global level.

Every design unit across the school’s MYP grades is a project-based inquiry, structured around the MYP design cycle. Through this questioning structure, girls collect and analyse data which can then be used to identify a design challenge, and then consider an approach to solve it. Based on this analysis, students develop ideas and explore concepts, using sketches and models

The next step is to transform these ideas into a testable prototype. Here, students make the most of Branksome Hall Asia’s fabrication studio, harnessing the power of 3D modelling software to produce designs that can be recreated using the school’s 3D printers and laser cutters. After producing the prototype, students create, then repeat the process to ascertain how well their prototype meets design criteria. Then, using this data, students build a firm understanding of design as a process, rather than a product, and thus learn that they possess the skills and insight to positively influence the world.

One exciting project Branksome Hall Asia girls pursue includes an inquiry into flatpack design. Beginning in the research stage, students uncover the principles of flatpack design, exploring ways it can used to maximise use of materials and reduce the environmental costs associated with manufacturing and distribution.

Students identify a market need that can be served though this technology. One student, for example, focused on the school’s Early Years Program (EYP), speaking to and observing students and teachers in this space. After identifying a demand for play furniture suited to the needs of these young children, she further refined her design through various sketches and prototypes, focusing on a rocking horse that was flat-packable, and could be manufactured with the school’s laser cutting tools. Through 3D modelling software, the student created a digital model of the product, using the school’s high-end facilities to bring her design to life.

After assembly, she took her prototype to the school for further testing and user feedback. Now in Grade 11, she is further developing her research and inquiry, hoping to create a product line of infant active furniture that can grow and change with the child.

This project highlights the value of granting girls frequent access to new and emerging technologies.

Above all else, it’s rewarding and empowering to create large-scale solutions through such ground-breaking facilities. Their inquiries serve the needs of the community, and positively impact their users.

Recognising these far-reaching benefits, the school has taken steps to make the design department open and accessible to all, urging students to pursue the skill of inquiry in every subject discipline.

“From JK prep to Grade 12, our students share their learning and living in a state-of-the-art world-class facility that embodies and encourages our value for intellectual inquiry, collaboration, effective communication, and strength of character,” Principal von Zielonka concludes.

“Branksome Hall Asia vibrates with students’ energy and warmth.”

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