School cafeteria

Redesign your school cafeteria

How would you redesign your school cafeteria to better benefit students, teachers, and staff?

How is your school's cafeteria designed now?  Start by making notes about what’s working and what isn’t working with the existing design.


The first step of the design process involves thinking about the big picture – the Overview.  It’s where you define and state the problem you are trying to solve. 

You’ll need to really understand the problem that exits before chasing after solutions.  How is your school's cafeteria designed now?  Start by making notes about what’s working and what isn’t working with the existing design.

Next, write and post a statement about out who are the people that have the need for a new design?  How long has this situation been a problem? Have others tried to solve this design problem before you?  What was the result?

Then write and post a short, but clear, success statement.  How will you know if you have a successful solution when you’re done?  When you’re nearly finished with your design project, you can go back to this success statement to see if your design has met the criteria you first proposed.

Collect Info

In the Collect Info step of the design process, you try to gather as much information as possible about your school's existing cafeteria.  You also want to learn as much as you can about the students and staff who will use it. You can't propose new solutions until you figure out and document what the existing problems are.  That's what this step is for.

collect © All rights reserved by PR Teaboy

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  • Do a site visit of your school's existing cafeteria and kitchen facilities and make notes, sketches, and take lots of photographs. Note conditions that are unsecure or less than ideal.
  • Sit and study photographs of your site visit.  Post images and comments of what you remember and note where you might change things and how.
  • Interview your school's head cook and least 4 other students and ask them what they like and dislike about the current cafeteria.
  • Calculate the number of students who eat in the cafeteria each day. How many different lunch periods does your school have?  Consider how this information will affect your redesigned cafeteria.
  • Do an analysis at different times of the day, week, or school year and create a chart or diagram with average usage and high / low points.
  • View an aerial photo of your school on Google maps. Note where the existing cafeteria is located.  What are the existing overall dimensions of the cafeteria?  IMPORTANT! Post a screencapture of this aerial photo and explain its location so everyone can understand the relationship between your school building as a whole and the proposed location of the new cafeteria. Describe the other rooms in the school surrounding the cafeteria.
  • Draw a basic floor plan sketch of the existing cafeteria and note surrounding rooms.  Include dimensions on your sketch so every can understand the size of the cafeteria. IMPORTANT! Post this existing floor plan.

Brainstorm Ideas

brainstorm © All rights reserved by Healthy Schools Campaign

In the Brainstorm Ideas step of the design process, you start to be inspired by new places and you put some early ideas down on paper that show what you've found in the Collect Info step.

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  • Go online and research other schools, universities, or restaurants to determine good / bad examples of how these eating spaces are designed. What inspires you?
  • Save copies of these images and post them in the slides for your project.  Include a hyperlink to the photo in the caption, to credit the photographer.
  • Gather all your notes from your interviews and post a summary of the results in the text box for your project.
  • Make a list of all the unique spaces and features you plan to have in your cafeteria.  Write this list of items in the text box for your project. 
  • You may redesign the interior of the existing cafeteria space, expand on the existing space, or design a completely new addition on to your school building.  It's your choice.
  • Your cafeteria can include any types of spaces and features you feel are most important for your particular school, but here are a few suggestions:
    • variety of seating options for students
    • kitchen with food prep, storage, and clean up areas
    • oudoor access for student seating, if possible
    • outdoor access for food deliveries and waste
    • sustainability issues and the environmental impact of your design
  • Determine the best location for your new cafeteria. Make side notes of where new elements may go or how you would change what is currently in place.
  • Take note of conditions that do not make sense, for example: not enough space for all students to eat; confusing patterns for moving through the lunch line; not enough food choice areas; no opportunities for quiet areas to study during lunch.

Develop Solutions

In the Develop Solutions step, your rough ideas come together with drawings and models that can show others your solutions for a new cafeteria.

Develop © All rights reserved by ElidaMemories

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  • Use cardboard to create a 3D study model of early ideas. Or use create a rough digital study model of your ideas. These models don't need to show detail, just the overall size and massing for your cafeteria.
  • Try out different ideas and save each “version”. You do not want to lose a good idea later!  Other people viewing your project - other students around the country, your teacher, and mentors - want to see how your ideas have changed over time. This means that if you're working on your digital model, you’ll want to be sure to keep re-saving it with a new file name every few days as you work through the steps.  If you're working on a physical model, take photos of it before working on it each day.
  • Show your ideas to your teacher and peers for some feedback. You can also review your progress with the test group you may have interviewed and test whether your design would meet their needs or address their concerns. Learn from the feedback you receive and incorporate into your final design solution.
  • Be sure to check out and make comments on other student design projects.  Post a link to your project on your Facebook account.
  • Do not leave work for the last minute! Going through a detailed design process requires time to gather information, develop ideas, and make improvements. This is difficult or impossible if you try to pull everything together a week before your project is due. 

Projects that are researched, developed, and well executed will always stand out!

Final Design

Finalize © All rights reserved by MyNameIsGiacomo

The Final Design step of the design process is to create more finished drawings and models that illustrate your ideas to others. Remember, your explanation text, and the types of drawings, images, and models you share need to tell the whole story of your project to someone who may or may not have ever visited your school.

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  • Review your design and test it against your original success statement that you wrote for the Overview. Does it meet this criteria?
  • Does your final design meet the expectations of the students and cafeteria staff that you interviewed?  If not, you may need to go back to the drawing board and revise your design.
  • Make a list of your ideas, sketches, and study models. For your final design you will want to write and post a short but effective paragraph of your process and the unique solutions you developed.  Tell us about your ideas.
  • Your teacher (and architectural mentors, if you're working with any) will be looking for these things:
    • originality in your design
    • your ability to creatively solve the design challenge
    • the quality of images, sketches, drawings, and models you have uploaded in each of the five design process steps (Overview, Collect Info, Brainstorm Ideas, Develop Solutions, and Final Design)
    • how well you have written about and explained your thinking in each of the design process steps