img_8324Recently when asked by students how the Founders Campus Media Center might accommodate both library books and a new makerspace, Ms. Trenney (grade 3) decided not to answer their questions right away. Instead she decided their questions created the perfect learning opportunity, one in which her students would seek out the solutions.

Working with Mary Cantwell, Mount Vernon’s Design Thinking Director and the School’s new Director of Media & Maker Jim Tiffin, the students embarked on a design thinking challenge to discover how might they redesign the media center to meet the needs of more students. Beginning the D.E.E.P. (discover, empathize, experiment, produce) process, students explored the needs of users (fellow students) by asking questions like: How can we make the books and maker spaces live in one space without one overtaking the other?  After reflecting on the feedback, the class moved into the experiment mode, creating a blueprint to redesign the space. Moving tables, rugs, chairs, and completely changing the flow of the space, students developed a sense of ownership of the space.

Reflecting on their work as they enter the library each day, students learned a valuable lesson: to not “fight the feedback” when hearing the wonders, likes, and questions from the variety of individuals who use the Media Center (teachers, staff and students). Ms. Trenney says one of the most challenging aspects of this design thinking challenge was the time and labor it involved. “It took my students a lot of time to interview the users of the library space, to prototype, and to physically move the bookshelves, books, and furniture in the media center space.”

Moving forward, the students still have some work to do. One group of students prototyped storage solutions for the maker section and those ideas still need to be presented to Mr. Tiffin. Another group is working to create a presentation to share with residents of the Mount Vernon Village seeking outside feedback from the community. Students are also seeking volunteers or Mount Vernon Media Mentors, to assist the check-in/check out process, shelving books and helping students to find just the right books. To volunteer in the new spaces, families are encouraged to sign up through a sign up genius on the Mount Vernon website.

To see the various stages of the design thinking process, check out Mrs. Cantwell’s blog: http://theidesignlab.com.

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