Form and Function(s): Sustainable Design meets Computation OER Sprint

Read the Project Updates here:
May 20, 2021 |

The Concept

When Architecture, the Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing intermingle something beautiful and purposeful occurs. Students are challenged to think computationally by considering the notion of “design” through three perspectives on form and function.  Through the first perspective, we challenge students to consider a structure’s architectural form in the context of its function within the ecology in which it belongs.  A second perspective on form and function is provided by way of the natural sciences, where students explore nature’s designs, which are created through natural selection.  Finally, form and function is further abstracted through a mathematical and computational perspective that focuses on how natural selection can be emulated through modelling and coding. The journey comes full circle, and the three perspectives coalesce, when students engage in a hack-a-thon in which they model and code evolutionary algorithms to design a better building.

The Callysto Project

Our goal is to develop Open Educational Resources (OER) for grade 10-12 learners through a collaborative process which incorporates the concept of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to break down barriers, improve access and broaden the appeal of learning materials about computational thinking.

Using an integrated STEAM approach, we introduce students to the notion of form and function insustainable designfrom different perspectives. A series of process-based learning activities and lessons developed collaboratively by our interdisciplinary team (Architecture, Biology, Computing, Mathematics and Pedagogy), challenge learners to both learn and apply computational thinking to real world phenomena. In using computational thinking as problem solving in real world contexts, we ultimately aim for students to recognize that computational thinking does  not necessarily equate to mathematics and computing; rather, mathematics and computing are tools that facilitate computational thinking.

The learning materials align with the Alberta 10-12 curriculum and can be delivered through a blended classroom and online environment. Materials will be released and distributed as OER with an appropriate Creative Commons license that will allow teachers to widely reuse, revise, remix, and reshare them.

The Event: OER Sprint

Our interdisciplinary team’s draft OER will be co-designed by high school teachers, asynchronously and online, in tandem with disciplinary content from Athabasca University faculty. These materials will be provided to participants of an OER Sprint, who are then challenged to refine and further co-design learning materials to teach computational thinking through three perspectives on “design”.

Pre-service and in-service high school teachers are invited to participate in the online and synchronous OER Sprint. The Sprint provides professional learning: (1) through innovative, experiential understanding of both STEAM principles and the pedagogical aspects of collaborating to apply the 5Rs of OER; and (2) around Design Inquiries and Hack-a-thon activities. With the high school student audience in mind, learning outcomes will be aligned with the Alberta 10-12 curriculum, and during the OER Sprint, feedback provided to help refine and enhance the learning materials. In addition to supporting the provincial curriculum, these open resources support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals including Goal 4 (Quality Education), Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), Goal 11 ( Sustainable cities and communities), and Goal 13 ( Climate Action). By using the platform of OER Commons, an OER digital library, the ability to share with other educators beyond Alberta becomes possible.


Funding for this project is provided by Callysto, a federally-funded CanCode initiative that provides training for Grades 5-12 teachers and students in Canada about data science and computational thinking skills.

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The Core Team

The co-leads for the project are Dr. James Greenwood-Lee and Dr. Constance Blomgren, with project management from Dr. Stella George and pedagogy guidance from Brad Skeet.  Athabasca University’s Faculty of Science and Technology has ten faculty members ( Architecture, Biology, Computing Science and Mathematics) participating in this unique interdisciplinary project.

Dr. James Greenwood-Lee is an Assistant Professor and the Chair of the Centre for Science.  His interests lie in the mathematical modelling of evolutionary dynamics and its applications.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Dr. Constance Blomgren is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Athabasca University. The Form and Function Callysto project is her fourth OER project (the Multiply K-12 OERpodcasts and videos;  the Annora Brown Art, Life, and Legacy project; and OER For A Better World) which are represented on the BOLT website. She teaches and researches about openness in education and is a Director for Open Education Global. Contact: and @DocBlom.
george Dr. Stella George is an Assistant Professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University. She has a long relationship with the application of AI both inside and outside education. Her current research focus is on the education about AI for, and  impact of AI, in society.
skeet Brad Skeet has been an educator for over twenty-six years and is currently the Vice-Principal at Meadow Ridge School, a K-9 school, in Okotoks, Alberta.  Working with students primarily from grades 4 through 9, Brad has a keen interest in the blended classroom where technology and teaching meet.  He is currently working on coursework in pursuit of a Master in Education degree through Athabasca University.
Liliana Tang
has been working as a software developer and a data scientist for five years. She has a keen interest in making computer science accessible for everyone, especially youth. She holds a Master degree in Information Technology Management from Athabasca University in addition to a Bachelor degree in Computing Science from MacEwan University.