Maria Cuzzocrea Burke

Maria Cuzzocrea Burke

Washington, United States

I am a Visual Arts Teacher, Creative, Art and Design Faculty, for Whittle School & Studios, a global school in Washington, D.C. I have been teaching art for eleven years. My focus is on developing students to become creative, innovative problem solvers and agents for change in human behavior through artistic play and the power of art.

About me

I am a Visual Arts Teacher on the Creative, Art and Design Faculty for Whittle School & Studios, a global school in Washington, D.C. I have been teaching Visual Arts for eleven years, nine in Arlington County (Virginia) Public Schools (APS), where I also served as a County Mentor and Lead Art Teacher. I was the Sustainability Liaison for Discovery Elementary School, a net-zero energy school in APS,  and lead the Eco-Action Green Leaders Team. 

I received my B.A. in Studio Art with a minor in Psychology from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and an M.A.T. in Art Education from George Mason University. I have led professional development for educators in design thinking and integrating sustainability into the curriculum. I have published articles in Green Schools National Network publications: Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly March 2018 and GreenNotes in April 2019. I am an active member and presenter at the Virginia Art Education Association and National Art Education Association conferences.

My educational mission is to foster students to be creative, innovative problem solvers and agents for change in human behavior through design thinking and the arts.

Why do you want to be a part of the HundrED Community?

Working at Whittle School and Studios, a global network of schools, I am very interested in learning about how other schools are innovating, and the kinds of authentic problems that students are solving. As my school grows around the world, I hope to have connections where students can help each other creatively solve these problems.

How can education support students to flourish?

I think that education needs to support 'play', experimentation and risktaking more in schools. Giving students the freedom to make mistakes, builds resilience and intrinsic motivation to learn. Joy in learning is the end goal!

What role does innovation play in education change?

Innovation plays a dynamic role in educational change. Careers are not siloed skills, nor should our education. Innovation is an active multidisciplinary creative process that allows students to solve authentic, real-world problems, and become leaders in solving them. Innovation allows students to direct their own path, to apply their understanding through project based learning or design thinking. Instead of passive learning, rote reading and writing, innovation lays new neural pathways that create new synaptic connections.  Active "learning improves the attention and motivation in students that lead to improving a child’s retention and learning". Teaching students through "innovative teaching methods can improve the neurobiological make-up of children leading to improved understanding of concepts and retention compared to... passive modes of teaching." (Kolab Tree Blog

Three HundrED innovations you love. (and Why?)

My top three HundreEd innovations are Anjiplay in China in 2002, Arkki - Creative Education for Future Innovators in Helsinki, Finland in 1993, and Design for Change in India, which started in 2009. I am inspired by these projects because they reach a large scale of students, promote creativity, play and design thinking to make a difference in our world. 

Three innovations you would love for HundrED to know about. (and Why?)

Three innovations I would love for hundrED to know about are the 'Seat Design Challenge', 'Design Challenge to Learn Outside', and the 'Design for Play' challenge, because they are authentic, place based challenges that allow students to become the experts, that promote creative, innovative, resilient, and reflective learners.

The 'Seat Design Challenge' integrates design-thinking into school curriculum, building on the traction of STEAM and project-based learning, this project combines art, design, engineering, and architecture and applies it to a real-world scenario. Students researched the areas of their new school to find out what seating was missing. Through a collaborative effort involving students, teachers, researchers, and design professionals, this design challenge featured a curriculum that covered a 6-month period – from an initial discovery and research phase to a high-intensity 2-week prototyping workshop. During this 2-week stretch, students worked in teams to iterate, pitch, prototype, 3D print, create/build and reflect their innovative ideas about space design. The outcome was a new multipurpose seat with swinging, climbing and hiding features.

'Design Challenge to Learn Outside'
This design challenge re-imagines the design of a future active outdoor learning space in their school forest. This challenge is inspired by Cradle-to-Cradle principles—the lifecycle of a product, sustainable making, and biomimicry. Through a collaborative effort involving students, teachers, researchers, and design professionals, this design challenge featured a curriculum that covered a 6-month period – from an initial discovery and research phase to a high-intensity 2-week prototyping workshop. During this 2-week stretch, students work in teams to iterate, pitch, prototype, 3D print, create/build and reflect their innovative ideas about outdoor learning. The outcome was an outdoor classroom in their schoolyard habitat.

'Design for Play'
Kids love to play. ‘Play is children’s most serious work’ (Edith Ackerman) This design challenge invites each student to design for play at Whittle School and Studios. This year’s location in Washington DC is Squirrel Park --- serving children in the broader community, as well as Whittle students each and everyday. Outdoor play fosters opportunities for whole child development; creativity, imagination, social connections, and learned behaviors. There are two types of outdoor playscapes: natural and constructed. Squirrel Park is a rolling landscape with mature trees, and acts as a glimpse of nature within the city. What’s missing? An intentional design for a diversity of play. Playscapes are designed by adults: researchers, manufacturers, artists, architects, engineers, landscape architects, and industrial designers. But in this design challenge, children are the experts on play – challenged to design something new. Using the Reggio-Emilia teaching philosophy as inspiration for this design challenge -- (emergent learning through play) -- and Anjiplay, students designed, experimented and allowed their ideas to transform through 'playing' with materials. This project has just completed the prototyping and online pitching phase (due to the coronovirus), and we are moving towards a full-scale build this fall.

DesignforPlayslidedeck1.pdf
Designing with Students as Experts
Art and Biomimicry Collide to Create Discovery Elementary School’s “Nature’s Hideout” | Green Schools National Network
2018 Discovery Design Challenge