Elstree Remote DT is the new ‘Blue Peter Hour’

Teaching design and technology remotely has meant Elstree’s Head of DT Mr Duarte thinking outside the box to work within the limitations imposed by the pandemic.

Inspiring pupils from Year 3 to Year 8 (and younger siblings), remote DT has involved making a marvellous mix of the wild and the wonderful, outside the workshop, safely and inexpensively from the comfort of their own homes. 

Design creations have ranged from 3D cardboard animals, loo roll crocodiles and paper helicopters, to marble runs, lights and mini crazy golf courses. (Click videos marble run 1 and marble run 2 to see for yourself.)

In fact, Years 7 and 8’s mini crazy golf courses will be used for the future design of Elstree’s very own full scale crazy golf course. 

How much of the curriculum did you have to change for remote DT?

Mr Duarte explains: “I made sure each project used materials accessible from home. So, some projects were new to the curriculum, while others were suitable for home learning.

A few like the lighting project have been adapted. Usually at school, we would be in the workshop using wood or acrylic and the relevant tools and equipment. But, as we’re at home, pupils have used cardboard, so slot joints were introduced.  It means they could join pieces without glue.”

Aside from live lessons, what teaching resources have you used?

“I have filmed myself making and explaining the projects stage by stage. These videos have been used in remote lessons, so pupils can make the products live with me there and then.”

What have you learnt most about the remote DT experience?

“Just because our pupils don’t have access to the workshop, doesn’t mean they can’t design and make things. I also didn’t want any expense incurred. All projects have involved  recycling household materials. But it wasn’t only about making the products. Pupils also had to grasp using computer aided design like TinkerCAD, researching items and conducting product analysis.”

A few things we thought you’d like to know about Mr Duarte

Mr Duarte joined Elstree as Head of DT and Assistant House Master at the start of the September 2020 term. Before Elstree, he worked at Ashdown House School for three years. He gained a degree in Design and Ceramics from the University of Cardiff, and completed his PGCE at Buckingham Uni. 

Mr Duarte is passionate about sports (he’s a Spurs supporter), comes from a large family, and having been to a prep school himself, loves the family community feel of Elstree.

“From the moment I stepped foot in Elstree, I was welcomed with great warmth. I knew instantly that this was the school I wanted to join. The grounds and the space are fantastic. The DT workshop is large and light. Having worked here now for almost two terms, I know I made the best decision in coming here.”   

Who are your design ‘heroes’ and why?

Kate Malone is a British ceramicist who first inspired me, and still does. Her large vases are used as a 3D canvas, and are just beautiful. Dale Chihuly’s installations are incredible too, for the sheer scale and ambition. He is so brave placing that many glass pieces into large structures. It is a feat of engineering and problem solving.”

What have you designed/created that you’re most proud of?  

“During my time at University, I was lucky to have access to a fantastic design and art department. There are a few things I have created that stand out, but if I had to only pick one, it would be the 6ft chandelier with over 200 different bespoke hand-crafted pieces of terracotta and porcelain.  LED coloured lights were incorporated into the chandelier to outline the different colours of the clay. This particular piece of work was inspired by Dale Chihuly’s installations.” 

How important is the environment and sustainability to you in terms of how design and technology evolves? 

“Sustainability and the environment is very important to me. As I teach my pupils to work with wood, it is imperative they understand about deforestation and that this precious material isn’t wasted.

Pupils have the opportunity to make rustic stools straight from Elstree’s woodland. Besides learning about the wood and its source, they will choose fallen logs to turn them into legs and a seat.

The lesson is not only about design and creation, but also about the importance of recycling materials and creating functioning objects from materials that are found on our doorstep.”   

The ‘Blue Peter Hour’

Remote DT has proven to be so popular, that even younger siblings in the Pre-Prep have been inspired to join in. Along with Remote Art led by Mrs Syckelmore, Elstree parents now refer to both lessons as the ‘Blue Peter Hour’.

Laurie in Year 1 said: “I loved doing DT. My favourite thing that I did was the drawing a Dambow (a robot), and I really enjoyed making my cardboard crocodile. And I loved making all the designs. Now I just have to wait two years until I can make them in DT.”

Laurie’s Mum concurred: “Laurie is so creative and he loved the opportunity of learning new skills alongside his brother, who is in Year 3. He diligently listened, followed the instructions and was delighted by what he was able to make. He especially enjoyed  creating his Dambow, and can’t wait until he can make his design out of wood in Y3!”

Future community projects

Albeit Remote DT and Art come to an end this week, pupils and parents must fear not. The ‘Blue Peter Hour’ will still continue. Just this time, in the familiar surroundings of Elstree’s  DT workshop or art department.

What’s more, thanks to a caravan that was kindly donated by an Elstree Parent last term, there’s another community recycling DT project on the horizon. But, more on that another time. Don’t forget to watch this space!