by Mandy Stepanovsky, Friends School Associate Head of School/Elementary School Director

Friends School faculty and staff participated in a full day training on “Design Thinking in the Classroom” last August and a smaller cohort continued this work through the fall.  Design thinking is a non-linear, interactive and reflective process to deconstruct problems and design innovative solutions. This process invites participants to engage in understanding a challenge by practicing active listening, asking questions that encourage story-telling and utilizing empathy to deeply understand another’s perspective. This process permits creative problem-solving to construct knowledge through hands-on experiences and collaborate with peers.  By tackling problems small and large, we are preparing our students to do the same outside the walls of our school. The design thinking approach challenges minds through active critical thinking and iteration, nurtures spirits through providing students with engaging material that is accessible to all, and honors individuality through creating environments in which all voices are heard and all ideas are welcome. 

The design thinking process can be seen in large and small ways throughout the elementary building. From creative play with the Blue Blocks at recess to carefully planned classroom projects,  students at Friends empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test their thinking. Earlier in the year, grades two and three learned about “Caine’s Arcade” and embarked on their own arcade game design project. They culminated their unit by inviting the school to enjoy their final prototypes.  Have you ever experimented with Coke and Mentos? Grade two used the design thinking process to design ramps to propel a car of their creation the farthest distance possible during their force and motion unit. Additionally, Intoobas, 3D math manipulatives, are used across the grades to engage students in the design thinking process, drawing upon mathematical concepts, engineering, and critical thinking skills to solve novel problems.  For example, one class designed bike helmets that do so much more than keep you safe. Some can answer phones, have built-in lights, include face protection and even night vision. With design thinking, the sky’s the limit! 

What can you do to support design thinking at home?

To learn more, please read the attached article: “10 Ways Design Thinking can Help you Raise Resourceful Kids

Challenging minds. Nurturing spirits. Honoring individuality.