Rootdown LA

Contribution: Design Research
Collaborators: Justine, Marissa, & Sarah
January - May 2018
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USC's chapter of Design for America partnered with Rootdown LA to improve their cooking classrom experience. After three months of bi-weekly site visits to class, my project team designed a workbook experience for Rootdown's cooking class for inner-city K-12 aged students



01 Immerse

Our team went on-site every other week for three months to observe. interact, and conduct research with the class. We started by giving students a questionnaire about their eating habits at home and what they learned in class. We were somewhat surprised to find that even though students were cooking and eating many vegetables in class, it still didn't happen much in their homes. But, perhaps the most poignant insight was, as we were passing out the questionnaire, a student pointed out that "We don't get stuff like this to take home"

Skills: Contextual inquiry, surveys.

02 Define

We then conducted interviews with five groups of three students where we learned more about what their cooking and eating habits at home were, and what foods they liked to eat. We discovered that due to their parents' busy lives and lack of control over what was in stock at home, they often just ate what was at home -- which oftentimes didn't include fresh produce. 

We also found a trend in what the parents' cooked often -- similar recipes that were easy and familiar, ones that the kids mentioned their abuelos (grandparents) cooked as well. 

Skills: Focus groups, user interviews.

03 Ideate

After learning that students had nothing to take home with them, we set our sights on creating a workbook -- but we needed data to design it well. We started out by mind mapping major quotes and statistics from these data sources. Then, we used these data points to journey map the experience of a Rootdown student. Through journey mapping, we highlighted three key insights that would become design specifications.

  1. Having a friend. We included a gender fluid character, Alex, as a guide that students follow throughout the workbook. This was inspired by a class observation: students were more likely to engage when they had a friend to sit and talk with. 

  2. Incorporating familiar elements. Rootdown has many unique mnemonics they teach their students to remember cooking techniques, so we made sure to include informative pages about these so students could be reminded of them at home.

  3. Recipe pages. These were inspired by many insights -- first, the influence of what's in the home from the interviews; second, the variable attendance rate observed in class, and subsequent fears of misplacing workbooks often. Recipe pages were both a part of the workbook as well as pages that could be distributed individually, so students will always have something to take home from every class they attend.

Skills: Thematic analysis, affinity mapping, journey mapping, writing design specs. 

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We delivered the workbook to Rootdown and they implemented it in the upcoming cohort, which was Summer 2018. You can view the workbook here