As they embark on this unit, professional panel members and teachers caution students: “In school, we typically try to work out the “right” answer. That’s just not how things work in the real world. These problems are complex, and do not have one right answer.” In order to solve these complicated problems, students are coming to understand the critical need to ask thoughtful questions, essentially building empathy for the affected constituents. They strive to know the personal story, the many perspectives, and the nuances of real world problems, in order to truly understand the scope and depth of the dilemmas they are working to solve. They do this by asking questions and listening. “What can we do about the kids who don’t want to be helped?” asks a student who is trying to gain empathy for the choices troubled youth may make. He knows that his design thinking process requires a deeper understanding as he works with his classmates to solve Attention Homes’ problem: How do we de-stigmatize homelessness in our community, be more empathic, and thereby increase community activism?
Design Thinking, when applied to something tangible and relevant in a student’s life, has great pay-off as teachers strive to give their students authentic practice in critical thinking, teamwork, and serving their communities. Dawson School Grade 6 will present their creative solutions to the panel of government, private business and nonprofit community members next month. Professional community members are looking forward to working with their new, adolescent co-workers, hoping to learn something from the Design Thinking process that may lead them to viable solutions to these current, real world challenges facing Boulder County and many other communities both nationally and internationally.
What types of student-drive design-thinking projects would your community benefit from?