Grade 8 Design Students went on a semester-long deep dive into the concept of “Design Thinking” to test their imagination and see how far it could take them and their creativity. And it was all to please Mom! Well…in theory, anyway!
Becoming Design Thinkers
The students started out learning about the concept of Design Thinking with a fascinating TED Talk by IDEO CEO Tim Brown. This Talk helped them start thinking about the process of design, what it meant, and how it has changed over the years. From there, the students discussed the steps of Design Thinking: Empathize; Define; Ideate; Prototype; and Test.
Their task was to interview someone in their family (Mom, of course, but also Dad, big brothers, little sisters, and grandparents, too!) to see what kind of product they had around the house - or wish they had - that could be designed or re-designed to make life easier. After the students took their data from the interviews they conducted, they set out to design a more capable blender, a more efficient way to store shoes, a tidier way to keep annoying hangers from spilling out everywhere, and even a toaster that could handle baguettes! This was the empathize stage: how could they make life better for their family?
Thinking Into Action
The next steps were to work out their ideas by defining the issues and ideating their way through sketching different versions of the products they had in mind. After they had a couple of different options, it was on to prototyping. By creating a succession of prototypes, they could refine some of their original ideas and could see what might work and what needed to be improved. Using cardboard and other materials, each student created at least three prototypes, and it was easy to see how their ideas changed over the process.
Finally, because they couldn’t actually make the products, their “test” challenge came in the form of a survey that they had to send to some critical judges, including faculty and staff of the school, and their family members. Crafting the correct survey questions to elicit the feedback they were looking for was a challenge and along the way, they also learned the importance of crafting a business-worthy correspondence to attach their survey to, ensuring they would get the responses they needed. This also included designing a poster to show off their product, giving them a short lesson in marketing and graphic design as well.
The Importance of Problem Solving Skills
All in all, the unit mirrored what a real-life designing and marketing experience might look like. But don’t be fooled, the real product is not a newly designed toaster or blender, but rather the student’s abilities to problem solve and innovate. It might be just helpful household solutions today, but the skills learned can be used for tackling some of the bigger conundrums these students might face in the future. And that sure will make Mom proud, too!