From 2009 through 2014 students in Perkiomen Valley Middle School East Connections classes designed solutions to all manners of storage issues in their daily lives. Employing design thinking, students worked in teams to interview fellow students, custodial staff, administration, and teachers to build empathy for all the users impacted by this issue. Each year students designed projects that looked at the lockers, backpacks, desks, and even at the usefulness of textbooks themselves. For two years students volunteered to have their designs critiqued by engineers and designers from Knoll Furniture in East Greenville, PA.
In early August I started what I hope to be the first of many Design Thinking workshops for educators in my district. Twenty curious teachers worked through IDEO’s “Wallet” exercise and came away, in three hours (note to self…WAY TOO SHORT!!!) with one primary understanding: Building Empathy for the user is crucial to this process.
If that’s what they can get in three hours, besides the exhilaration and “flow state” that hands on, time constrained, learning can create, then I’m happy. I’m planning more workshops to shift culture in my district and engage students in Design Thinking at all levels and for all learners (that includes teachers, administrators).
If we’re not changing the world, we’re not educators…we’re not human beings.
Engaged upon with 40+ 8th graders, 10 Collaborating Professors and Industrial Design Students from Philadelphia University, and my Colleague, Mrs. Kathy Todd at Perkiomen Valley Middle School East, this project took place in 2013, my last year as a middle school teacher. In transition to my HS English position, I lost my way as a design-based educator as I struggled to grasp new “content oriented” curriculum and a HS culture that seemed poisonous to learning for one’s self. Now that I’m on more solid footing, students in all my classes, English and Design-Lab, will engage in this kind of learning.