Design Thinking is a problem-solving method that emphasizes empathy and creativity. It helps individuals and teams approach problems from different perspectives and find innovative solutions. Grade 5 students recently put their skills to the test by developing a new tool that would help kindergarteners have fun while counting and learning about measurements. Through the 5 steps of design thinking (empathize, define, ideate & collaborate, prototype, and test), they worked together to design a thoughtful, age-appropriate, and user-friendly final product.
To begin, Grade 5 students thought about what the Kindergartners’ needs and interests might be, and what would make the counting experience more enjoyable for them. They considered factors such as the size of their hands and their favorite colors. This focus on empathy helped the students approach the project from the user’s perspective and ensured that the final product would meet their needs.
Lower School Maker Teacher, Mrs. Colette Johnston and former business owner shared her love for Project Based Learning (PBL) like this, “I wanted to walk the kids through all of the steps I would have taken to prepare to do this project if I were hired to do it. I love PBLs because they provide an opportunity for me to observe and see how the students act together, and I am always amazed at their creativity and ability to solve problems.” Mrs. Johnston’s goal was to guide them through the process of preparing for a project like this as if they were professional business owners.
In this stage, students set out to figure out what exactly they needed to make for the Kindergarteners. By first exploring similar products students then landed on the idea of making a set of number blocks, where each block in the set would be the corresponding number of inches tall. Markings on the side of each block would represent one inch in height. By researching similar products, they determined these markings would help Kindergarteners understand how many inches they were counting. Each Grade 5 Maker class set out to create one set of blocks each to give to each Kindergarten class.
3. Ideate & Collaborate
With a strong understanding of what they were going to make, students started to plan how they would fabricate their products. In small groups each with a different task (cutting, sanding, painting, stencils), each group nominated a leader as well as an over-arching project manager that would oversee the progress and be a liaison between the groups to keep everyone on task. In one Grade 5 class, Owen V took charge as PM, “The class talked about what tools and materials we were going to use. We also had to have a conversation about what group leaders’ jobs were and what my job was. I thought I was going to be working with the tools with everyone else but I figured out my job was to manage, not do.”
During the prototyping stage, students put their plans into action and began creating the number blocks. Lyla R said, “We first cut blocks on the Mechanic Saw and then the sanding group sanded them to make them smooth. After that, my group painted them and put the number stencils on them. The next group painted the numbers.” Even though the class anticipated that painting evenly within the stencils would be difficult and tried to plan for it, the group was unhappy with their first round of blocks. They went back to the drawing board and decided to use paint pens instead of paintbrushes.
The teams worked together to complete each task, with the goal of finally creating their finished products. By working in smaller groups, they were able to make progress quickly and efficiently. The step-by-step approach allowed them to focus on one task at a time and made the overall process manageable and less overwhelming.
The (i)Studio Maker Space was filled with excitement during the four days Grade 5 spent working on this product design project. Since each Grade 5 class is starting this project at different times, Kindergarten students will receive their blocks once each set is complete in four weeks. At that point, Grade 5 students will observe Kindergarten playing with the blocks, ask questions, and listen to feedback. They will regroup to discuss the feedback and determine what they might do differently next time.