As some readers may know, I’m currently piloting a middle-school design club using The Creativity Hub’s “Extraordinaires Design Studio.” One of the main goals of the club, beyond introducing students to the world of design and design thinking, is to help build their empathy muscles, something many consider a workout more people in the world could benefit from. (See this recent article by Thomas Markham, this from Harvard, and, if you want to go way back, read the chapter on Empathy in Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, or just google “empathy in the classroom.”)
If you’ve followed some of my previous posts on the Extraordinaires club, you’ll note that I started the club by using a modification of a lesson by Kriscia Cabral at Scholastic, Inc’s website that focuses on getting students to know each other and to build empathy for each other before I began engaging with the Extraordinaires Design Studio.
The Middle School Design Club students presented their designs to their partners at our last meeting of the year, December 21. (We’re working on a rather extensive video with the High School film department of these presentations and other aspects of the students’ first experience with the Extraordinaires Design Studio, but a few more weeks of video need to be shot.)
We did get a chance to unbox the design studios and deliver those to the students, and students began to explore the fascinating world of the Extraordinaires. Working individually and pairing a random Extraordinaire card with an object card, the students quickly organized design challenges for themselves. Keeping empathy at the forefront of the process, however, I slowed them down and asked them to go deep into their character’s life and experiences. Here are the slides I used to introduce them to the Empathy Mapping process I’ve used (based on the work done at the d.school).
The Design club students didn’t get all that far before we ran out of time, so we’ll be revisiting the empathy mapping process at our next meeting. However, I did get a shot of one student’s studio before we left that shows a solid beginning of the process:
This is a start of many such projects and designs that will involve individual determination, empathy for the other, and real-time feedback and iteration. It’s the start of a process that I believe can lead to outcomes far beyond standardized tests, outcomes that reveal learning at levels never achieved via testing: empathy, grit, imagination, and hope.