Here at Leysin American School in Switzerland, we think of experiential learning as a method of teaching that enhances our students’ academic experience and aids them in further engaging with the real-life applications of their studies. Last semester, several grade 10 Design, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation Lab students from LAS traveled to London to learn from experts about finding a niche, creating a business, and building a product. Goldfinger Design is based in Notting Hill and has created bespoke furniture for companies such as the Tate Modern Museum and Tom Dixon. In addition to their top-notch creative output, the Goldfinger brand emphasizes sustainability by reusing discarded materials, and uses their platform to support their local community through youth programs and the People’s Kitchen project.
Experiential learning can be defined as “learning through reflection on doing.” Though hands-on learning is the main component of experiential learning, reflection is a crucial element that allows students to process and fully understand their experiences. At LAS, we include many experiential learning opportunities in our programs that enable our learners to see the real-life applications of their studies and engage with their learning in a student-driven way. This idea was implemented during the workshop at Goldfinger, where students were asked to reflect before, during, and after the activities, and apply new knowledge to their studies in meaningful ways.
The students began the workshop day with an introduction to the company. Next door to the Goldfinger workshop is the Sicilian restaurant Panella, which has worked with Goldfinger to distribute over 11,000 free meals to people in need within the community. The borough surrounding the shop is known for having significant wealth disparity, and this disparity is what Goldfinger is trying to overcome. In addition to this project, Goldfinger also organizes a youth academy program, which seeks to train youth from the area in carpentry skills. The students really enjoyed learning about the different components of the company and how it functions as both a business and a social enterprise!
After this introduction, our students learned more about applying their current studies to the business through a group discussion. The company is currently expanding its retail and office space and asked our students to brainstorm ideas for the transformation—whether through including another brand in the space that pays rent, expanding their office area, changing their store layout, or any other ideas they could think of. Involving the students in this discussion really gave them a sense of agency and allowed them to reflect on their studies and apply their academics to real-life situations.
Following this discussion, the students made their way down to the workshop to learn from master carpenters. Learning about the different types of wood, the ways in which the grain and fibers affect the warping and shape of furniture, and some of the techniques used to make their bespoke pieces was so interesting and inspired many of our students who are currently working on designing a piece of furniture for their Design class project. Seeing the different stages of carpentry also gave our students a further understanding of the whole process, from concept and design all the way to the finishing touches and shipping.
After learning about the different types of wood and techniques used by the Goldfinger carpenters, students were tasked with making a wooden keychain using woodworking tools. They had to design their product and create it after watching demonstrations and receiving feedback from a member of the Goldfinger team. This allowed them to showcase their creativity and consolidate their learning from the day. Students really enjoyed this project and were happy to take home a memento from the workshop!
The whole day at the Goldfinger workshop and studio was a wonderful mix of design, product development, marketing, entrepreneurship, and hands-on learning! This workshop was made possible by a fantastic member of the LAS alumni community who used to work for the brand and still has connections there. We are so grateful to them for connecting us with this incredible social enterprise and allowing our students to learn from experts in the field. They were truly inspired by the day, and we can’t wait to see what entrepreneurship projects they create in years to come!