In 2009, author Emily Pilloton moved to Bertie County, North Carolina — the poorest county in the state with a population of just 20,000. There she and her partner Matthew Miller launched Studio H, a design and build program meant to engage the creativity of high school students while bringing design innovation to the area. Pilloton told the story at TED Global 2010 in the talk, “Teaching design for change.” In the new TED Book, Tell Them I Built This: Transforming Schools, Communities, and Lives with Design-Based Education, Pilloton expands greatly on the experience, digging more into the who, what and where.
Through the eyes of her students, Pilloton tells the story of the group’s hopes, failures and triumphs. According to Pilloton, we can dramatically revamp vocational education and build the change we wish to see in the world. And she should know: ultimately her students were given the key to the city by their mayor for initiating, designing, and building three public chicken coops and a 2000-square-foot public farmer’s market structure. In Tell Them I Built This, Pilloton offers tools for building change in communities, tips for turning a vision into meaningful work, and clear and inspiring directions on how to get it done. Tell Them I Built This dramatically shows how creativity, critical thinking, citizenship and dirt-under-your-fingernails construction can radically transform both high school education and the local community where the students live.