Category: Contributors

In Ottiya Contributors, we introduce the students, teachers, architects, practitioners, and others who have contributed work to our magazine and/or platform

Issue One Contributors: Mijeong Takahashi


Mijeong contributed an article + activity about how to exercise creativity and perspective taking in the first issue of the Ottiya Magazine. Learn more about Mijeong below:

How would you introduce yourself in less than 10 words?
Educator and researcher interested in people and a better world.

What was the most important factor in nurturing your creativity when you were growing up?
What a wonderful question for reflecting! Countless factors have contributed to developing my creativity, but perhaps one of the most important were the open and creative adults around me. For example, I believe thinking critically and questioning allows me to explore new thoughts, and my father was excellent at patiently listening to and answering my numerous questions as well as asking me questions that pushed my thinking. Another example are my wonderful, artistic elementary school teachers who would beautifully decorate our classrooms and design countless creative activities in all disciplines. I have been extremely fortunate to have mentors of various fields encouraging me in my creativity and curiosity.

Where do you draw your inspiration from today?
I draw my inspiration from everything around me, including the people around me as well as my experiences from the past. I’m always collecting pieces of ideas, and they fit together in different situations and times. Of course, there is also my lifelong source of inspiration, nature.

Creative potential: nature vs. nurture? What’s your take?
I believe it’s both. Every single individual is born with creative potential in some capacity. There is no non-creative person. “Creativity” might look different, but I believe everyone is capable of it. However, what creative potential or ability one has is shaped by the environment, thus nurture can and does have significant impact.

The theme of the first issue of Ottiya is ‘community’. What is community to you?
Community to me is a place of acceptance and give and take. It is the next step after your family, a place where multiple families and entities learn from and support each other to come together as a larger piece of society/living in the world.

Issue One Contributors: James MacDiarmid

James contributed an article and activity about nature and biophilia in the first issue of the Ottiya Magazine. Learn more about James and his article below: 

How would you introduce yourself in less than 10 words?
I am a teacher by trade but an educator by choice.

The theme of the first issue of Ottiya is ‘community’. What is community to you?
Community is greater than the mass. It is about acknowledgment, awareness, appreciation and learning. Community is built on shared understandings and values. Community is not confined to the human species but rather all living and nonliving others. We are nature therefore we too make up the community that is known as planet Earth. 

You contributed an article/activity about biophilia. Can you briefly explain what it is?
Biophilia is a term first introduced by Erich Fromm to describe our innate psychological needs and tendencies of being attracted to all that is alive. It is why, for example, you will always observe young children chasing birds and for that matter, expressing wonderment in all things found in nature, despite never being exposed to it before.

What’s your favorite quote about education?
“Experience is what you get, when you didn’t get what you want.” – Dr. Randy Pausch

Where is your favorite green space?
All areas that make up the natural world. There can never be one (favourite) green space as all spaces are interconnected and provide that same feeling of awe and wonder.

What is your favorite nature experience from childhood?
Going to space everyday in my rocket ship, or more commonly known as ‘my tree in the front yard.’

What are your hopes for nature education in schools?
That nature becomes the nucleus for all learning opportunities. That we look to nature for inspiration, provocation and teachings. That a school ‘setting’ resembles that of a nature space; one which is alive, transient and ingenious in design.


Interview/Editing: Rufina Park, Founder and Creative/Editorial Director of Ottiya

Issue One Contributors: Stephen Sun

Stephen is an educational architect/ real estate developer-turned 4th grade teacher. He wrote an article about designing learning environments in the first issue of the Ottiya Magazine. Learn more about Stephen and his article below: 

How would you introduce yourself in less than 10 words?
I live at the intersection of real estate, design, and education.

You wrote a fascinating article called, “Designing Learning Environments”that explores the different ways that architects and educators look at education. What’s the main message you want educators to take from this article?
The space in which we learn is an educational instrument in it of itself. I want educators to leverage their classrooms, hallways, playgrounds, and beyond to be part of the curriculum and school’s mission. We are often working with constraints out of our control, yet one would be surprised by how much students and educators can achieve if we let our minds diverge a bit.

What do you love the most about teaching?
I designed and helped build a school in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. That building will resist the forces of time over the next century, but it won’t grow nor will it change much. Compare this to the students that I taught while I was there. They took the content, got themselves jobs, and even started a school to teach a new generation of learners. Education has the ability to scale and is enduring beyond the concrete walls of the architecture we provide for students.

What’s the most challenging thing about teaching?
In the U.S. the educational system is under so much pressure to perform social tasks that schools are neither equipped nor designed to handle. This burden unfortunately falls on the teachers. My personal challenge is that I’m currently working in an urban school in Dorcherster/Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Many of the socio-economic, racial, political, and environmental concerns that students face in their neighborhood manifest themselves in the classroom behaviorally. When there are twenty five students and only one teacher, it’s extremely difficult to balance the disciplinary/behavior needs with the academic ones.

What’s your favorite quote about education?
“Experience is what you get, when you didn’t get what you want.” – Dr. Randy Pausch

What are some of your favorite learning environments, spaces, or buildings?
I remember every single seat I’ve had in an academic design studio setting since 2005. Whenever I travel, I will always find the local architecture school and visit their studios. When I’m among foamcore models, yellow trace, hearing motor sounds of plotters churning out presentation drawings or smelling burnt acrylic from laser cutting, I slip into another dimension entirely. The studio spaces for the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles, California, is the only place in the world I’ve ever described as magical.

The theme for the first issue of the Ottiya magazine is community. What does community mean to you?
Community to me is a very ethereal and conceptual feeling where a group of animate and/or inanimate subjects share the same values and mission.


Interview/Editing: Rufina Park, Founder and Creative/Editorial Director of Ottiya

Issue One Contributors: Jerónimo van Schendel and Begoña de Abajo

Jero and Bego wrote an article about how IDEO reimagined and recreated the San Francisco Unified School District cafeterias into a more welcoming environment for students. Jero and Bego share lessons learned from an interview with the masterminds behind SFUSD’s school lunch project and discuss their own thoughts on the design approach as a problem solving tool for educational communities. You can read their full-length article in the Community Issue of the Ottiya Magazine.

J E R O 

How would you introduce yourself in 10 words or less? 
“What if?” Is my life motto. Boundless curiosity, enjoyment with creativity, and some risk too.
What is your favorite children’s book? 
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach: About a mixture of perseverance and deep enjoyment, that has a lot to do with creativity. The Baron in the Trees, by Italo Calvino: about the world that opens to your eyes when you take a different path. Tintin.The whole Saga.In French: about the adventures of living a multicultural, complex and uncontrollable world.
What was your favorite way to play when you were 9 years old?  
Amazingly, Begoña and I shared the passion (hitherto unknown haha) of creating caves with the cushions of the couches, in our respective houses. Me and my brothers have nice histories down there.We have more unknown things in common apparently hahaha. One of my nicknames as a child was momo, because of Bego’s favourite book.
Climbing in the trees, pretty high, and moving from one to the next one with friends. My school was full of trees & grass and at that time, for many reasons, it was doable!
What is community to you?
The magic that occurs when your definition of yourself, includes an essential reference to other people. A social way of understanding existence. 

How would you introduce yourself in less than 10 words? 
Begoña is an architect that believes in the potential of the design process as a mean to empower communities and as a tool for learning and developing important abilities for the 21st Century.
What is your favorite children’s book?
It is difficult to choose just one. I remember that I enjoy a lot reading classic novels like Around the World in Eighty Days or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but my favorite one could be Momo.
What was your favorite way to play when you were 9 years old?
This one might sound freak but it is true: I loved building forts with the couch cushions, and playing Lego with my brother. I would also mention that I keep very good memories from “doing bread” at my grandparents´ bakery.
What is community to you?
Community is the addition of people that share something and that when brought together represent much more power as a whole than each of them individually. 

How do you think can architects and educators collaborate more?
The first necessity is building deep interprofessional trust. Beyond that, one collaboration terrain is crafting experiences that teach students to deal with uncertain or undefined scenarios (the default of our time), yet enjoy, produce and extract great content and conclusions from them. We’d dare to say that Innovation, happens ONLY in those scenarios. The second one is more direct: collaborate to define (we are lacking consistent & conjunct theoretical approaches), and then build spaces where those values associated with innovation and free exploration are enhanced. Bringing back the learning by doing pedagogies, and introducing design processes in the curriculum can foster creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking, which are among the most important abilities in nowadays careers, and we use those constantly.
What are 5 keywords that describe your article?
Design Thinking / Collaboration / Innovation / User Experience / Exploration
What are the strengths of IDEO’s approach to problem solving?
The approach of Human Centered Design is powerful for the education environment. Its development in iterative design phases, that evolve essentially based on user interactions or reactions, allows each of the social groups involved (educators, teachers, managers and so on) to externalize thoughts or needs that are generally hard to grasp, hence hard to transform in design solutions, but have tremendous impact in each of the collective’s daily lives. Specially considering that educational centers are, fundamentally, places for coexistence.


Interview/Editing: Rufina Park, Founder and Creative/Editorial Director of Ottiya

Issue One Contributors: Rae Cao

Rae works at Sesame Workshop China office and manages its social impact and education programs. She wrote an article about the communities of left-behind children in China and how educational experiences, such as those offered by Sesame Workshop China, can help them to grow and develop. You can read her full-length article in the Community Issue of the Ottiya Magazine.

What is your favorite children’s book?
There are many children’s books that I absolutely adored, but my favorite has to be The Dot, written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds. The seemingly simple story says so much about creativity, encouragement, and self-confidence. Highly recommend it to not only kids but educators and parents who haven’t read it.

What’s your favorite memory from childhood?
Climbing up to the top of giant trees with my cousin and watching the streets of my hometown gradually quiet down in sunset.

As you know, the theme of the first issue of Ottiya is ‘community’. What is community to you?
A space with an accepting and supportive ambience where people come together, either physically or virtually, to share experience, thoughts, and knowledge, and to learn from each other’s individuality and difference.  

What’s one thing people might not know about Sesame Workshop China?
Sesame Workshop reaches millions of children in more than 150 counties through the power of media, but China is one of the very few countries where we have an actual office with people hitting the ground running. We are fairly small in size at this stage, but guess how many children we are aiming to reach – 150 million!

Who is your favorite Sesame Street character and why?
Oh, I love Oscar the Grouch. He is very different. Personally speaking, I love him because I think he has a grumpy kind of wisdom, and he is so honest and true. As an educator, I love him because I believe he is such an important character that helps young children understand emotions like anger and sadness, and teaches them about tolerance, perspective-taking, and empathy. Okay, enough reasons, now SCRAM! =D

Who are the ‘left behind children’ of China and what compelled you to write your article?
Just like the phrase “left behind” indicates, “left-behind children” are the children whose parents moved to big cities to work and who are left behind in remote rural villages to the inadequate care of their grandparents, or even worse, to no guardian at all.

Although most people in China are aware of the existence of this vulnerable group of children, people in other countries may not have heard of it. The term “left-behind children” is very context dependent, it is China-specific. It was caused by the rapid economic progress and urbanization of China in the past 30 years. Problems associated with these children are complicated and need immediate attention and action. At Sesame Workshop China, I am looking at possible ways to address these children’s specific needs, and I hope more people could be aware of the scale of the problem and join us to support these children’s development.

What’s the message you want people to take away after reading your article?  
​​Be aware, be empathetic, and take actions. Just like Dr. Seuss said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Of course big problems take a long time and much diligence to solve, each small step should be valued and celebrated. There’s so little we as individuals could do, but there’s so much together we can achieve.


Interview/Editing: Rufina Park, Founder and Creative/Editorial Director of Ottiya



Issue One Contributors: Laura Tsang

Laura is a 9-5 lawyer who devotes her spare time to the pursuit of creativity. You can read Laura’s full photo reflection piece in the Community Issue of the Ottiya Magazine.

Behind the scenes – here’s a little peek into Laura’s creative process when she’s working on a photo project

9-5 Lawyer and creativity enthusiast—is this what you wanted to be when you were little?
I’ve always loved creative projects, even since childhood, so that’s something that has stayed pretty constant in my life. However, I did not anticipate becoming a lawyer. Life will take you to some unexpected places, so keep an open mind because you never know where you may go, or what you may decide to pursue!

Favorite quote about creativity
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

Favorite picture book/children’s book:
‘Something from Nothing’ by Phoebe Gilman is one of my favourite picture books. The illustrations are just as lovely as the story. If you like that, try some other books from the same author, such as ‘The Balloon Tree’.

Favorite memory from childhood
There are almost too many to name, but it was always in the little things like being read bed time stories by mum and dad, eating at the mall food court (there was so much variety!), and Sunday mornings spent making brunch while listening to my dad’s record collection.

What is community to you?
For me, community is a space where people share something in common. Communities can range from a few people, like a school club, to a lot, like a sports team. There’s really no limit to what a community can center around and I think that communities are integral to helping us learn from one another and continue growing.


Interview/Editing: Rufina Park, Founder and Creative/Editorial Director of Ottiya

Photo Credit: Laura Tsang