Case Studies

Case Study: Innovating Future Homes

This is how GEMS DAA Grade 7 learners conceptualized homes of the future to solve the problems that matter.

The GEMS Dubai American Academy is a vibrant international community rooted in a culture of kindness that creates and empowers leaders and independent thinkers. DAA prepares students to lead successful lives through the diversity of its community and the extra-curricular experiences that contribute to the development of the whole person, and strive to prepare today’s children for their place in tomorrow’s society.

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There's a certain level of pride that comes from designing your own home. The satisfaction you can obtain from observing the concept take shape from the ground up is incomparable. Add imagination and innovation to spruce up your idea, though, and then you've got something special.

That's what the Grade 7 Innovate students of GEMS Dubai American Academy got to do with a recent project called "Future Homes" under the guidance of Paul Myer Hopkins, a digital video and innovation instructor at DAA.

"The project has a multi-faceted approach that incorporates all 6 of DAA's Future Fluencies," explains Paul. The Fluencies allowed the creative Grade 7 Innovators to use structured processes to achieve their original design goals in ways that foster significant learning.

How do we begin to transform

As with any authentic learning journey, it all begins with defining the challenge. “The first phase involved gathering information to identify the most urgent problems facing the world today,” Paul says. From there, the research focused on advancements in science and technology and how those ideas could be applied to designing more efficient homes.

“The design cycle was applied as they developed prototypes, and then applied recently-acquired Tinkercad skills to build virtual 3D models,” he continues.

gems future home research

Researching ecological home design for the Future Homes project

A creative design tool like Tinkercad lent itself well to this kind of work as it provides a multidimensional experience for both designer and observer. In using it, the student innovators were able to bring their ideas to life in intriguing interactive ways.

Another primary focus throughout the entire Future Homes project was on students collaborating effectively. This was made all the more accessible through the document sharing capabilities of both Tinkercad and Googles Docs, which the Grade 7 Innovators used exclusively.

How do we plot a path to sucess

As the work progressed, the Grade 7 Innovators produced some amazing proposals that showcased their imagination, ingenuity, and problem-solving abilities. Some of the notable concepts they generated were things like a city-wide power conservation solution that involves placing sensors on recycling bins that relay vital information to their main plant. Another idea involved washroom facilities containing biotechnology that warns occupants about the symptoms of possible impending illness.

Grade 7 Innovate students work on their future home designs

The students shared many groundbreaking ideas, like various eco-friendly green home features that cut down on air pollution. They developed portable in-home power outlets that have a lifetime power supply. They also produced videos using green screen technology that let them take viewers on virtual tours of the homes they designed.

All in all, the Grade 7 Innovators brought together teams that truly envisioned the future, and found ways to bring their dreams into a reality that could one day be more real than we may think.

How best can we measure growth and progress


"When the students are encouraged to ask questions and solve problems that come from their own experience, you immediately get a buy-in," Paul states. "This results in a much higher level of interest and sustained engagement."

  • Students are becoming better collaborators because they get regular practice working in groups.
  • They are encouraged to ask questions and learn from mistakes, resulting in higher levels of interest and sustained engagement.
  • Students are directing their learning, going further and at times in entirely new and unforeseen directions.


    As a teacher with over 20 years of experience, Paul is always looking for new ways to help students to connect with the subject material. "I have found it quite easy to incorporate the Fluencies into older lesson plans," he says, "which I feel has made them more relevant and meaningful to students.'

    • The Fluencies processes allow teachers to incorporate and embrace ever-changing innovations and technologies because they are rooted in tried-and-tested methodologies.
    • Teachers are taking to the Fluencies concepts quickly because they are adaptable to many different topics and scenarios.

    School Culture

    The Fluencies were introduced at GEMS DAA to encourage teachers to think differently about their methods, with the goal being to encourage more innovation and collaboration throughout the school. Teachers are taking to the concepts quite quickly because they are adaptable to different topics and scenarios.

    • The Fluencies provide a framework for teachers acting as facilitators of student learning, allowing the students themselves to take the lead.
    • Using the Fluencies supports the guiding philosophy of DAA, which is a “Culture of Kindness.”
    • They help to foster collaboration, empathy, and cultural understanding.
    • Students are getting a more consistent teaching approach from all classes and subjects.

      How do we ensure learning continues to improve and excel

      As Paul reflects on both present and future learning journeys with his Grade 7 Innovators, he can’t help but marvel at the positive changes that the Fluencies have made at DAA, both for teachers and students.

      “I have always understood the ‘teacher as facilitator’ concept, but it has not come naturally to me,” he admits. “The Fluencies provide a framework for this to happen, and I am much more comfortable now standing on the sidelines and seeing students try, fail, try again, and then succeed. This is so important for an innovative and creative mindset. There are no mistakes, only discoveries!”

      So what’s on the horizon for Paul and his intrepid learners as they continue with the Future Fluencies? “We are in the relatively early stages, but I can only hope that we are able to run with this program for many years,” says Paul. “I look forward to more training and continued implementation.”

      Case Study: Innovating Future Homes—GEMS DAACase Study: Innovating Future Homes—GEMS DAA

      Case Study: Innovating Future Homes—GEMS DAA
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