Prototyping in the Classroom

Experimenting with DT for the first time (2013)

Photo of Paula Marra
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I started applying Design Thinking at JAM in March 2013.

When I teach, I encourage students to make things. At JAM we are MAKERS!

I also believe that we should always encourage STEAM activities so the students can apply what they learn in other subjects in a common project or be taught that subject through a common project so that is what we did! I call it on-site STEAM and Applied STEAM.

JAM had a Unit called Step by Step where we were going to understand that things go through a process, and our last Unit was called Where We Live.

We decided to build a model of a perfect city (what would this model city look like?), using Design Thinking.

In Model City, the children discussed the elements of a city (roads, buildings of various types, etc.). They each chose an element that they would make (a crafts activity), and then we built a model city. In building the model city we discussed whether the relationship between the various elements made sense, and the children could move the elements around until they arrived at a configuration that worked. While doing this, we discussed the notion of process. It was the first time I used DT in class. We used what we knew about the world to come up with solutions, and in the process we identified things we didn't know yet (and needed to learn about!).

At the time I followed the DT process with the kids:

Discovery: I have a challenge - HMW design our perfect city?

(What would the perfect city look like for me? We looked at pictures, we looked at books, we walked about our neighborhoods, we saw fun - The Jetsons, Flinstones - movies.)

Interpretation: What does this challenge tell me?

(How might we translate what I saw and the knowledge I acquired?)

Ideation: What can I create that might address this challenge?

(First time we of the hardest things to apply with kindergarten children...the concept of not needing to raise hands...)

Experimentation: Try it out and see! (I was not using the word prototyping yet J)

(How can this look like, let’s try different ways, what would be the best one for us?)

 Evolution: It doesn't always work perfectly right away - iterate and improve, based on feedback from the children and parents, and our own observations.

The post above is adapted from what I shared with the parents in 2013 about the project. As a teacher that was the first time ever I did that lesson. The pictures are from last year's iCity. (We don't do this project anymore, as we don't have that unit; this year we did a Unit around re-designing the school playground - the other post I shared here).

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Photo of Jessica Lura

Love the photos!