The Boulder Center for Interactive Learning at Dawson (BCILD) sponsored a Design Thinking unit in sixth grade at Dawson School where students engaged with local entities to find creative solutions to a variety of community challenges. The purpose of this work was to investigate how Design Thinking works in practice in a classroom, and to share our findings with the K-12 learning community at large. We hope that our observations and experiences help to promote this style of learning as broadly as possible. In our work, we were assisted and supported by Coeylen Barry, Founder and Director of CreatEdu, a Design Thinking consulting group that coaches in school, government, and business settings.
In order to provide students with authentic ways to get involved in real community problems, we asked several local entities to join us in this month long process. Participant “clients” were: Western Disposal (a large local trash and recycling business), Attention Homes (a non profit entity focusing on homeless teenagers), Boulder County Flood Recovery (a county agency working to address emergency preparedness), Boulder County Regional Sustainability (focusing on energy efficiency programs for residents and businesses in the county), and Boulder County Extension in Horticulture and Entomology (addressing the emerald ash borer beetle infestation county-wide).
Students were given a month to work on creative solutions to problems presented by the “clients”. After that time, students had an opportunity to present their solutions to the clients and receive feedback on their ideas. In this report, we refer to the ultimate beneficiary of the Design Thinking process as “the client”. Student Work Produced:
Homeless Youth -- Problem presented by Amy Monetti from Attention Homes
Problem: How do we de-stigmatize homeless youth in our community and open up more empathy for help?
Solution: Small student groups (trained by Attention Homes) visit schools, grades 4-8, to educate students about the truth behind homeless youth, telling their real stories. An essay contest for school children follows the presentation. The topic of the essay revolves around discussing stereotypes of homeless youth and how important it is to understand homeless youth. Winners of the essay contest are published in the Attention Homes newsletter. The premise of the solution is to begin with passionate students in the hopes of spreading information to parents about the plight of the homeless youth.
Emergency Preparedness -- Problem presented by: Garry Sanfacon from Boulder County Flood Recovery
Problem: How do we compel families to be prepared for disasters?
Solution: Create a Give a Kit card program that would make emergency kits available to qualifying families who would otherwise not have the money to purchase one. Kits would be available and visible to the public outside large stores, similar to the Community Food Share exposure at the door of grocery stores during holiday time periods.
Energy Efficiency -- Problem presented by: Jonathan Koehn, Boulder County Regional Sustainability Manager
Problem: How do we get people to use the programs and services that the City of Boulder provides for home energy efficiency?
Solution: Crews and individuals that already go into homes (cleaning crews, electricians, plumbers, appliance delivery personnel) will be trained by the City of Boulder to be energy efficiency experts. These crews will perform energy efficiency audits for free to homeowners on occasions when they will already be present in people’s homes. The audit will include a recommendation for basic modifications (Package A), for extended modifications (Package B), and for complete modifications (Package C). Homeowners will approve a package, and the energy efficiency crew will make sure those modifications happen in that home.
Recycling Waste Management -- Problem presented by: Kevin Afflerbaugh from Western Disposal
Problem: How can we convince families to act on the necessity of recycling waste in Boulder?
Solution: In public places, Twin Bins will be made available so that access to recycling is more visible. Sponsors will pay for the recycling twin bin, and their logo will be placed on the bin.
Emerald Ash Borer Beetle -- Problem presented by: Carol O’Meara, Boulder County Extension Agent in Horticulture and Entomology
Problem: How can we get people to manage their North American ash trees to reduce the spread of the emerald ash borer?
Solution: Hold an Ash Borer Beetle Dash, a fun run in various Boulder County neighborhoods that would raise awareness through education and scavenger hunts along the course. Emphasis would be on teaching about the identification of beetle infestation, how to protect trees with proper application of pesticides, and how to prevent the spread of the ash borer beetle infestation. The scavenger hunt would focus on locating the North American ash trees in various neighborhoods throughout Boulder County.
The findings from this process will benefit both teachers and students in future Design Thinking undertakings. In our next blog post, we will share our results.
Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture