Thoughts on design thinking: Jeannie Wenndorf, Seven Peaks School
First of all, I want to extend a huge thank you to our SPS families for your investment in our new Design Lab, and for sending a team of teachers to the Design Thinking Institute in SF for professional development.
Before the training, I thought our new Design Lab would be a place for our students to tinker, and see themselves as creators, and not just users of products. I thought it was about giving our students access to fancy tools to increase their comfort with technology, and allow us to do more elaborate STEM projects, preparing them for 21st century careers. If I’m honest, I saw it as “one more thing” to fit into the curriculum, and wondered what I would give up in order to give students more time in the Design Lab.
Wow, was I small-minded in my thinking! I am beginning to understand that Design Thinking is not an “add-on” to our curriculum, but a lens through which to view all our learning opportunities, in every subject. Using Design Thinking, students investigate a problem, generate multiple ideas for solutions, create a prototype to test their idea, and get feedback to improve on their prototype. They might repeat (iterate) this cycle of prototyping and feedback multiple times before arriving at a satisfying solution.
This process sounds suspiciously like good problem-solving skills, which can be applied to most any problem, whether it be making sense of a new math concept, resolving a conflict on the playground, or designing a cardboard boat that will successfully carry three fifth graders across the pool at the Athletic Club. Design Thinking is used all the time in the real world, as businesses identify problems that their users are experiencing, and work toward creative solutions.
I am full of questions and ideas about how to implement Design Thinking in 5th and 6th grade math… How can I refine our approach to daily math lessons to better align with Design Thinking? What authentic design challenges can students tackle that require them to apply mathematical concepts in engaging ways?
Equally compelling, I am wondering how we might use Design Thinking to build community at SPS. What if we challenged our students to use Design Thinking to come up with ways to make break times more fun, or minimize playground drama? Ways to help new students and families feel welcome? Opportunities for friendships to develop outside of school hours? Developing meaningful connections between elementary students and middle school students?
I have caught the vision for how Design Thinking might energize, unify, and transform our Seven Peaks culture. As we embrace Design Thinking, I truly believe that we will create a generation of kids that know how to approach problems with curiosity, take ownership for finding solutions, and have the resilience to persist when things don’t go as planned. Bring it on!