By Ashley Whipple, 5th/6th Grade Teacher at Carmel del Mar
Ready, set, jump! That’s exactly what the start of this school year and implementing Design Thinking has looked like over at Carmel Del Mar School in Room 303. And I must say, this start and jumping in has been so refreshing, just as an ocean dip feels this time of year. In my fifth and sixth grade combo class, reinvented and renamed as “Team 56”, we have plunged ourselves right into acquainting ourselves with the parts of the Design Thinking process as we have begun something called “The Shoe Project”.
“The Shoe Project” has been an incredible diving board to spring us into not only learning the parts of design in an approachable format, but has also allowed us to intentionally connect as a new team of mixed grade level learners. “The Deep Dive” also known as the research part of the process, encompasses one of the most quintessential elements of the Design thinking process: empathy. Before any means of defining a user’s needs, brainstorming/ideating, prototyping, and collaborating a learner, or designer rather, must spend time accessing empathy for the user(s).
As I fixated on the reality that empathy is the heart of the design process, initiating the start and success of the entire Design Thinking process, I could not help but see this as a great way to give my students a very genuine and organic way to connect with each other at the start of the school year. So what did this exactly look like in the classroom? In taking shape, we partnered up with a user from the opposite grade level within our our team and began interviewing our user about his/her shoes. Our shoes were our starting place that served as the perfect talking point to begin learning all kinds of information about the user. Interviewing took an entire forty-five minute session, as both users interviewed each other, getting to know each other, and learning about some subliminal needs we as users actually have in regards to our shoes.
As a teacher, and one who is passionate about Design Thinking, I can’t help but highlight and note that the refreshing nature of the “Deep Dive” came out of the magic that happened witnessing my students diving right in. The smiles, laughter, engagement, care, curiosity, inquiry, and EMPATHY that drenched our environment was absolutely magical. The genuine excitement that had been ignited through interviewing a user to gain empathy in order to identify a user’s shoe needs naturally propelled my students into the design process. They couldn’t help but want to further connect and to present a possible solution for their user. That being said, our next step is to conquer the ways to explicitly create a need statement for our user based on the information gained in our interview process, bringing the “Deep Dive” of the Design Thinking process to a close and moving us closer to presenting solutions.
And that is what it looks like to get the heart of Design Thinking pumping. It’s magic.
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