“What are they teaching kids these days?” It’s a question that perennially pops-up among parents. From “new math” to iPads in the classroom, school curricula are ever changing. But, the more things change the more they stay the same. The goal at the forefront of education is still to equip students with the skills to solve the problems they will face as working adults. One of the newest approaches to problem solving integrates social and emotional learning with basic science and social studies. A process called Design Thinking is taking hold with educators across the country.
“Design thinking is a mindset...and it starts with empathy,” says Maine high school teacher Dan Ryder. “It’s more than a new approach or five-step process to problem solving, and more than a 2.0-version of project-based learning,” Ryder tells the NEA. You can read the full interview on the national blog for educators.
At Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, Florida, Design Thinking is an integral part of the Lower School curriculum. Dominique Craft, Dean of Curriculum for Lower School offers this definition of the innovative approach to problem solving. "Design Thinking requires students to, explore real world problems, understand someone else’s feelings and perspective, and focus on serving others."
One example is the fourth grade sustainability project. Students are required to identify an environmental problem, then thoroughly research their observations. Students learn everything they can about what it is like to actually experience the effects their chosen problem. They need to ask all the questions they can think of in order to put themselves in the “customer’s” shoes, understanding the need from the inside out.
The resolution process continues the connection with others, deepening the social construct. Solutions are brainstormed in collaboration with others. During the brainstorming process, all ideas are on the table and judgment is reserved.
Students must think collaboratively to choose one solution that they will turn into a prototype. The problem solving team then constructs their prototype. The finished ideas can be imaginative or realistic. The teams exhibit their prototypes and share information about their design, reporting what they have learned. Students seek feedback on the prototypes. Assessment of the project is focused on how the solution meets the needs of the person experiencing the problem.
When Shorecrest students use empathy in their work, they are actively realizing core values that our school emphasizes. Without respect and compassion, the Design Thinking approach to problem solving would not work. It requires curious and emotionally sensitive students. When Mrs. Craft describes the thought process associated with Design Thinking, she makes note of the empathy that students must put into their problem solving. Students learn to find solutions as they:
- Create Beautiful Questions
- Discover Emotional Connection
- Sustain Social Constructivism / Collaboration
- Learn Through Doing
The process of Design Thinking requires students to model respect and compassion, even as they complete class projects. This is one example of how Shorecrest integrates core values into daily learning. We invite you to see the curriculum in action by scheduling a personal tour of our campus.