Tag Archives: design thinking

The Extraordinaires

At the end of last year, right before Christmas, I saw a tweet about The Extraordinaires.  After visiting the site, I was intrigued by the product and ended up buying one of the smaller sets to try out with my students.  Since my 2nd grade gifted students are studying structures, I chose the “Buildings” set.

All of the products in The Extraordinaires line revolve around Design Thinking.  Each set includes Character cards, Design projects, and Think cards.  The sets also include a drawing pad, and at least one pen.  The Buildings Set includes 6 each of the Character and Design cards and 10 Think cards.  Larger, more expensive sets, contain more cards.

Each of The Extraordinaires Studio projects allows you to choose a character and a design project.  For example, one of my students got the “giant” character and “sports venue,” so his assignment was to dream up a place for his character to play a sport.  You can, of course, mix and match the cards, which makes for interesting combinations.  The think cards can be used to help refine the project and add details.

Fortunately, I only have 5 students in this particular class, so the set I bought is the perfect size.  (Some of the larger sets have higher age recommendations.  The company assured me in a tweet that the 16+ noted on the box “only refers to the guidebook and the depth of content,” so this leads me to believe that the cards would still be fine to use with lower ages.)

Photo Jan 23, 10 04 34 AM.jpg

My students were extremely motivated by the Character and Project cards.  The graphics on these definitely generated enthusiasm.  Before passing out the cards, we had talked about empathy.  I emphasized the importance of designing for their “clients” instead of themselves.  For about 20 minutes, there was complete silence in the room as the students got to work.

I had already told the students that this was just the beginning, that they would go through many drafts before settling on final designs.  It’s good I prepared them, because I realized that I hadn’t done a very good job of teaching them about empathy.  As they shared their first drafts, it became clear that they drew buildings that were familiar and just added a few details (like kelp, for the mermaid’s house) to align the structures with the characters.

Fortunately, the website for The Extraordinaires includes some resources for teachers.  We will be using the “Graphic Organizer for Getting to Know an Extraordinaire.”  After all, it’s difficult to have empathy for someone you don’t know.  This is actually all practice for our final semester project, for which they actually will be designing something for someone at our school. (More about that in a future post.)

If you like the idea of teaching Design Thinking to your students, and would like some other resources, Jackie Gerstein has a wonderful collection of design challenges here. For a great free Design Thinking curriculum, City X is another alternative.  To see why you should even consider incorporating Design Thinking into your curriculum, this video from The Extraordinaires allows students to explain. (Be sure to watch all the way to the end if you really want your heartstrings tugged 😉

Play with Design
from “Play with Design”

Play With Design from The Creativity Hub on Vimeo.

Empathy Series

Last year, Class Dojo produced a series of short animated videos that taught about what it means to have a Growth Mindset. Yesterday,  they released the first video in their new “Empathy” series, with two more expected during October.  Each video is around 4 minutes long and includes a discussion guide that also has suggestions for carrying on the conversation at home.

My elementary students enjoyed the mindset videos from Class Dojo last year, and even ask to watch them again.  Since empathy is part of the Design Thinking process, and something we regularly discuss in our GT classes, I definitely plan to show this series as well.

If you want to delve more into teaching empathy, Joelle Trayers has a plethora of posts that include picture book suggestions and activities on the topic.

Screen shot from Class Dojo video, Empathy #1
Screen shot from Class Dojo video, Empathy #1

Beauty’s Beak

Deborah Lee Rose is an author who recently worked with a raptor biologist, Jane Veltkamp, to write the non-fiction book, Beauty and the Beak.  The book will be published in 2017, but you can already access related S.T.E.M. materials here.

Beauty, who had much of her beak shot off by a poacher, was almost euthanized because of her inability to survive.  Jane Veltkamp and her team collaborated to save Beauty, and the eagle is celebrating her 15th birthday this year.

One important part of Design Thinking is empathy, and the story of how Beauty’s rescuers cared for her and found a way to replace the eagle’s beak using the technology of 3d printing is an excellent illustration of empathy at work.

There are so many lessons to be learned by the story of Beauty, from the perils of poaching to the fantastic feats that can be accomplished by those who work together to beat the odds.  This is a tale that is relevant and inspiring, and sure to make an impact on your students on multiple levels.

Beauty Before and After
USFWS Photo by Glen Hush – Beauty Before and After

Iterationists

I would like to give Krissy Venosdale (@krissyvenosdale) credit for the awesome image below, and possibly for coining a new term: “iterationist.”  When I saw the image tweeted by her the other day, I knew right away it would be a new mantra for me.  Considering the experience I described from our robot camp on Monday, Krissy’s quote perfectly states what I need to encourage more from my students (and myself).

“Iteration”  is a word that is used quite a bit when people discuss Design Thinking.  Anyone who has created something of substance will agree that a new work goes through many drafts before the maker feels satisfied.  Those iterations are important to the process; in fact some even argue that they are more important than the final product.

What I learned from my robot camp experience is that I not only need to make students more aware of the importance of iterations, but also how to learn from them.  As I mentioned, some of the teams had no problem trying again when their designs didn’t work. However, they didn’t spend enough time on trying to figure out why they weren’t working, and subsequent iterations tended to be just as inefficient.

In school, we usually don’t give students time for multiple iterations, unless we are preparing them for a standardized writing test or telling them to correct failed assignments. If we could make “iterationism” a habit, rather than a consequence or forced strategy, students would be more comfortable about taking risks and we would see a lot more “bravery.”

by Krissy Venosdale
by Krissy Venosdale

 

Making – A Book and a Movie

I am very excited about the upcoming book from John Spencer and A.J. Juliani called, Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student.  To get a preview of the deep understanding these men have about their topic, you should read Juliani’s blog post, “The Beginner’s Guide to Design Thinking in the Classroom.”  Anyone considering adding a maker space or incorporating Design Thinking into the curriculum should read this post.

Speaking of considering a maker space, Laura Fleming (author of Worlds of Making, and one of the pioneers of school maker spaces) tweeted out a link to this video today, which is an awesome overview of the maker space revolution.   Laura’s excellent suggestion is to share it with teachers and school leaders for PD.

For more ideas on “making,” check out my MakerSpace Essentials page, as well as my “Make” Pinterest Board.

Click here to learn more about Launch!
Click here to learn more about Launch!

 

Encouraging Young Entrepreneurs to Change the World

Suzanne Horan and her 5th grade class of gifted and talented students were recently showcased on our district website for an outstanding project they did this year.  They each planned, researched, and developed products that could make a positive difference in the world.  From a 3-d printed model of a staircase that collapses into a ramp for those who are wheelchair bound, to improved fitting for a prosthetic leg, these imaginative and empathetic students created an array of marketable products that could truly be practical and helpful.

The students dressed up for presentation day because they knew their work would be evaluated by an objective panel of judges who would score them based on, among other things,  their research, passion for their topic, uniqueness of their product, and its usefulness.  For the next stage, Mrs. Horan has invited a patent lawyer to speak to the class about the steps to take to market their products.

This is exactly the type of project that students need to be doing.  It is relevant, based on student interests, and incorporates a multitude of thinking skills.  I would like to bet these 5th graders will never forget this experience, and that it will inform many of their later important decisions in life.

To read more about the fabulous inventors in Mrs. Horan’s class, you can visit our district website, or their class blog for some great pictures from the presentation day!

A student in Mrs. Horan's class shows others his idea for collapsible stairs
A student in Mrs. Horan’s class shows others his idea for collapsible stairs

2 Invention Challenges

If you have been working on Design Thinking with your students, you might want to enter one of two invention challenges that open to children at the moment:

The 2016 Annual Invent It Challenge, sponsored by Spark!Lab, invites participants from 5-21 years of age to submit an idea for a solution to a real-world health problem.  The deadline for submissions is 3/18/16.  Click on the above link for more details.

Invent It Challenge

Imagination Foundation (the wonderful organization behind Global Cardboard Challenge and many other great activities for kids) has teamed up with AT&T to offer the Inventor’s Challenge.  According to their site, “we invite kids of all ages around the United States to invent a solution to a challenge faced by their school or community.” (I’m not certain if they literally mean all ages, as I couldn’t find actual age restrictions on their site.)  Submissions are due by 3/11/16.  Visit the site for more information and register to receive a free download of the “Playbook” with ideas and suggestions for participation.

Inventor Challenge