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In our history and social science classes, we don’t want students to just understand what happened in the past, but to learn from that history, to consider the many forces that impact our society, and to apply their own creative thinking to better the world. With that mission-driven goal in mind, as sixth graders enter Greenhills, we begin challenging them to examine their role within the local and global community. And one way we do that is through the Standard of Living Project carried out in every Global Studies class, which was created by Greenhills history and social science teachers Karin Scott and Lauren Yavor.

The Standard of Living Project tasks students with brainstorming solutions to Washtenaw County’s most pressing challenges: housing, food insecurity, education, healthcare, and employment.  In previous years, after learning about these challenges, students would get straight to work, constructing 3D models of their solutions. This year, we introduced an artificial intelligence (AI) component to enrich the learning experience.
During the conceptualization phase of the project, the school’s information technology department and library director came to our class to help students input their ideas into Bing Image Creator, powered by DALL·E 3, while teaching best practices for communicating with AI. Incorporating this new tool allowed students to visualize and refine their ideas in real time, prompting deeper discussions about building size, materials, furnishing, location, and more as they created virtual renderings of their proposed solutions.

Once each group agreed on a virtual rendering, they used a plethora of materials such as cardboard, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, and legos to construct 3D representations of their solutions. The impact of AI was evident from the start, with the resulting models being more nuanced and comprehensive than in years past.

Upon completion of the models and accompanying slides, students presented their plans in front of the class, detailing how the residential project would be funded, staffed, and maintained. Additionally, the class engaged in conversations about the practicality of each solution and how well it addresses a crucial need in Washtenaw County.

While the primary goal of this project was to help students continue to develop into global thinkers, they also walked away with a newfound understanding of AI and how the ethical use of this rapidly evolving technology can help enact positive social change.

By Jacqueline Wisor, History and Social Science Teacher

Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

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