Designing a better Baltimore

A few weeks ago I sat down with Becky Slogeris at Charmington’s coffee shop in Remington. The neighborhood used to be classified purely by the legendary Ottobar, but is now home to the recently renovated Miller’s Court – an office complex and residence dedicated to educators of many disciplines – including the Baltimore Urban Debate League where Slogeris serves as the Graphic Administrator. The BUDL is over ten years old and is devoted to enriching and facilitating competitive, academic debate amongst elementary, middle, and high school students in Baltimore. Slogeris, a Deutsch Fellow and MICA Social Design grad doesn’t shutdown when the clock strikes five – she spends her “spare time” revolutionizing Baltimore City Public schools with her BMoreFit Teacher Toolkit (created in conjunction with Jon Kaplan and Baltimore Fitness Academy), Baltimore CARES Service-Learning Curriculum and The Baltimore Textbook, written by her, of course.

How did Becky get so involved in education as a Graphic Designer? Well her mother is a teacher in a suburb of Detroit where she grew up. She didn’t want to be a teacher herself, but wanted to help a city improve its education system – one with a poor reputation nationally. As a MICA undergrad, she enrolled in the brand new Masters of Social Design program and was selected as one of two inaugural Deutsch Fellows in the spring of 2012 (the other being Briony Hynson of the Playscape). She spent the last year living in MICA Place in the Middle East section of Baltimore, and implementing BMore Fit Teacher Toolkit, which is now used by 120 teachers across Baltimore and the Baltimore CARES program, in which the city itself is an education tool to help promote and facilitate the states service-learning requirement. She found so many youths in the city unaware of BMore’s varying neighborhoods and cultures and got the idea for The Baltimore Textbook. Designed for a young audience, the book explores the city’s many facets – physical, socio-economic etc. and dives into topics like segregation, gentrification and population growth and decline.

Screen shot 2011-10-14 at 1.09.41 PM

Courtesy of Becky Slogeris

Wander over to the BMore Fit tumblr and you’ll notice an effort to promote not only physical education but also nutrition education – a major concern for Baltimore’s young inner city children. In April, BMore Fit was written up on baltimoreschild.com and Kaplan, the Baltimore Fitness Academy director says the BMore Fit Teacher Toolkit is working, “we want to impact as many students as possible. We are very small right now, but we are a group of people who are very passionate. It’s very exciting to see it grow. We really feel like great things are going to happen.”

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courtesy of John McCartinDSC_0479   BMOREFITcards_mockup-1

The cards provide both “Energizing” and “Calming” options for teachers to utilize during class time from “jumping jacks” to “arm circles” – either to improve productivity or promote physical education. It’s a tool to help reset a hectic classroom, provide some de-stress options for children, or to jump start the brain after lunch or recess. In a system often broken down by standardized tests and “no child left behind,” Becky Slogeris and BMore Fit are creating a new standard for Baltimore education and it comes in the shape of five and a half by three and a half inch cards.

So what’s the recipe for a well rounded education? It starts with a social designer, a local textbook and a few jumping jacks.

– TD

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