Building a better school community for ourselves and our peers through design thinking.

Diverse student teams use the human-centered design process to identify and address areas of need within their school community.

Photo of Elana
6 6

Written by

I'm currently developing a design thinking curriculum geared toward upper elementary students and will be studying the impact of this curriculum on their empathy, civic engagement, and self-efficacy as part of my master's thesis project. I'm hoping to take a new spin on more conventional participatory design models by having students simultaneously function as both users and designers throughout the entire process. Instead of focusing their research efforts solely on other users whose experiences differ radically from their own, they'll work to synthesize the more subtle differences between their own and their teammates' perspectives on community issues into one coherent design solution.   

The empathy-building part of the project centers around peer interviews/observations and persona-building activities, and has a similar angle to the Video Pen Pals post I shared.  (The civic engagement/self-efficacy part is more tied to prototyping/implementation/iteration--i.e. I want them to do more than hang posters on a wall!!!).  

I don't want students to disavow their personal experiences and struggles as part of this process. I think that understanding their own feelings and needs is in an important precursor to being able to understand those things in others, and I envision empathy arising out of the process of identifying the similarities across life experiences that are different but also the same in certain fundamental ways.


UPDATE: Working on a Design Thinking K-5 Curriculum aligned with NYC Social Studies Scope & Sequence units and essential questions. Here's a website where I'm beginning to compile my findings and resulting curricular materials, but it won't be done for at least another month. (It's part of my master's thesis project.) https://ebb344.wixsite.com/dt4all/

6 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Elana
Team

Looks like I missed the build phase. Sorry guys. I've actually been doing quite a bit of work on this project--just haven't had a chance to check-in here. Here's the website where I've begun to compile info about my design process, but it's nowhere near done. I'm working on building a design thinking curriculum focused on empathy & civic engagement that aligns with units and essential questions in the NYC K-5 Social Studies Scope & Sequence. Stay tuned and feel free to use any of the curricular materials once they're posted! https://ebb344.wixsite.com/dt4all/

Photo of Lisa
Team

Elana
YES!! I love this!! I've been doing this type of work at the high school level-and it's rewarding although hard! I'd love you to build this out. Have you tried it yet with students? Is there a way to do a short prototype of it and share what you learn here? How can I help? Want to start a google doc and collaborate in it? If you do and post the link here, you can invite others to contribute their thoughts to your ideas. YES YES YES!!! Let me know how I can help!
Lisa

Photo of Elana
Team

Hi Lisa. Thanks for your enthusiasm! I've done a fair amount of digging and there is very little published research (aside from a few studies in Scandinavia) on the impact of design-thinking instruction with elementary learners, so I'm pretty excited myself! Would love to hear more about your experience implementing this with high school students.

I'll be doing the first workshop (a shorter, more scaffolded, less abstract version of Stanford D-School's Crash Course in Design Thinking) with a group of 3rd-5th graders in after school tomorrow. I'll post the link to the slide deck/lesson plan and student packet once I'm done fine-tuning it and would love feedback from you or anyone else who cares to chime in. Hoping to have the other 4-5 lessons ready by the end of next weekend. Right now the sequence I've begun to map out is...

Lesson 1: Design-thinking Overview
(Design the perfect backpack for your partner.)
Guiding Question: What makes a design "good" or "bad"?
Vocab: empathy, divergent thinking, ideation, prototype, iteration

Lesson 2: Research & Synthesize
(What problems exist in our community? How is the way we experience these problems the same? How is the way we experience these problems different?)
Guiding Question: How can empathy change the way we see/understand/talk about a problem?
Vocab: empathy, divergent thinking, convergent thinking, synthesize

Lesson 3: Ideate & Prototype
(TBD)

Lesson 4: Implement & Iterate
(TBD)

Lesson 5: Present & Reflect
(TBD)

Photo of Lisa
Team

COOL!!!! I can't wait to see how this goes. Maybe start a google photo folder of photos? And share! Good luck and let me know if you have any questions....
Lisa

Photo of Elana
Team

Lesson Plans (only Lesson 1 is complete):
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Fs1JZIcMN2x6B6IHG1yWTF_SbYYlh1SY-AhRWiqLyJA/edit?usp=sharing

Student Packet for Lesson 1:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1j3BVuJVydp18nHtHf-qKcmvQQobpK4_nwYgYZ56MkVs/edit?usp=sharing

Photo of Lisa
Team

Elana:
I love this! Have you looked at this post? https://collaborate.teachersguild.org/challenge/empathy/ideate/purposeful-change-design-thinking
You two should team up and build out your idea! It's one that I'm super interested in and would love to help...
Lisa