I attended a Caring Counts meeting at Lil Lusher. The discussion turned to communication. The faculty discussed the school newsletter and website, tossing around ideas to enhance both. Since they were familiar with Design Thinking, I suggested I could have my class participate in a DT Challenge, and the issue would be the communication component of their school. They liked the idea, so I created the challenge as the final project for EDLA 2000 Education in a Diverse Society. Through discussions, we decided the class would present their ideas to the faculty of Lil Lusher at the end of the semester. I needed time to introduce DT to the students and allow them to practice the process before they began working on the real project.
After the mid-term, I introduced DT, and the next two weeks were devoted to the process and DT literature. I set up a tour of the school, so that the students could become familiar with Lusher. I wanted them to see how the school functions and have the opportunity to get to know the students and faculty. In the meantime, we were learning about SEL and discussing how Lusher is an Ashoka Changemaker School. It was also important for the students to understand the role of SEL at Lusher.
We attended a morning meeting and Lead Teacher Janine Murray gave my students a guided tour of the school. We visited classrooms, talked to students and teachers. We also had a Q&A with Janine after the tour. This is when we decided to have the presentations at Lusher and make it open to anyone that wanted to attend.
After the tour, we began the DT process. During that time, we had an email Q&A with Ms. Nelson, Lusher Elementary’s principal, who cleared up any questions the students still had. The ultimate challenge was to help Lil Lusher with communication between all stake holders. They were tasked with redesigning the website or the newsletter, or both, and they did! We also told them to be creative. If they wanted to, they could design something entirely different. Thus, one group created a mobile app.
As they stated in their final reflections, this project will be memorable for the students because it had relevance and impact; they weren’t just working to earn a grade. For me, as a professor, it was an amazing opportunity to teach DT and have the students carry out a project with real impact. It was great watching the students work through the process and learn how to collaborate in different ways. Assigning a DT project was a first for me as well. I look forward to more real-application opportunities for my students. Ms. Nelson and I plan to continue this partnership next semester, and I envision this program reaching out to other partner schools as well.
-Vicki Templet, EdD