Just before Christmas, the students in our Middle School Extraordinaires Design Club got to check out the Extraordinaires Design Studios. In their first week back, they got right to work, designing, improving, researching, and trying to make the lives of their Extraordinaires better in some way.
We started with empathy maps. The Extraordinaires cards are so highly detailed and varied in the aspects of life they show that one can easily see countless details in the character’s life, and infer or imagine even more.
After we worked through the empathy maps, the students chose an “object” card which gave them the second and final piece to their design challenge. Using their empathy maps, the object cards and their character cards, students started to devise ideas for an object to meet the needs of their character.
Some students were designing objects to carry things in for an evil genius. Others were designing a form of protection for a ninja or something to play with for a robot. No matter what they were doing, one of the great things they did, without prompting was they began looking at each other’s designs, asking questions, making suggestions, and complementing each other on their ideas.
Einstein, supposedly, said, “Not everything that matters can be counted; not everything that can be counted matters.” There’s more here–in this product, this activity, this entrance to a world of making–that matters than there is in a semester of memorizing, multiplication, and the misery of homework. Do those things matter? Certainly. But the world isn’t counting on an upcoming generation that can memorize and comply to the dictates of others. It’s counting on a generation of students who can see problems and devise solutions that benefit not only themselves but also the world.
Empathy and imagination, as engendered through the Extraodinaires Design Studio and design thinking, present a clear pathway to such a future. I’m counting on it.