Often times external visitors to Mount Vernon ask how Design Thinking happens in Lower School.

There can be misconceptions that young learners are not ready for this level of sophisticated work. However, at Mount Vernon, we have been able to disprove these misconceptions over and over again.

Lower School students begin the DEEP Design Thinking process in Kindergarten to build empathy muscles early. This happens in the classroom by working through projects, and carries over into the personal lives of our students, which is evident during playdates. 

A few weeks ago Madison and Sophia, two third graders, had a playdate. They had an idea to raise money for the Pioneer Tomorrow capital campaign, and make an impact on their school community. Their first idea was to make bracelets, so they got busy stringing beads. They tried to sell them in Madison’s cul-de-sac, but only sold a few. The girls knew their first prototype failed, but they were determined to fail up.

Madison’s mother collaborated with the girls to think of a product in higher demand, so they tried selling cookies.

A few weeks later, the girls were back together at Sophia’s house. They baked pumpkin, blueberry, & poppy seed muffins, chocolate chip cookies, and pumpkin bread to sell. One of their best ideas was a tip jar!Sales started slowly that Sunday. Sophia describes her first sales experience as “heart-racing.” Being design thinkers, the girls asked for feedback from their customers. They learned they had yummy goods and good prices. Another customer recommended that the girls raise their prices, so they doubled the pumpkin muffin prices from $0.25 to $0.50. Other customers didn’t offer verbal feedback, but the volume of their purchases spoke for itself. Sophia shared her response to customers who inquired about the beneficiary of the funds raised, “We are raising money for our school. More buildings, more learners.”

After a couple hours of work, the girls ran out of cookies and pumpkin bread, so they put their moms to work to keep up with the demands. Sunday morning sales and tips totaled over $75. Madison reflected, “My favorite part of the day was when another Mount Vernon student stopped by and just gave us a tip for the jar!”

Today, the girls shared their profits with the Mount Vernon Philanthropy team. They submitted a donation card, presented their funds, and celebrated by ringing the Philanthropy gong. Both girls are excited to create future opportunities for impactful work. Madison plans to ask for donations in lieu of birthday gifts this year, and Sophia is encouraging her parents to match her donation, and add a zero.

Thank you Sophia and Madison for being Pioneers!    

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