As a strategy for problem solving, design thinking is quickly gaining a foothold in a variety of K-12 settings.

A growing number educators nationwide are adopting design thinking as a way to teach students problem solving. 

“Design your own shoe.” That’s what high school students thought they were signing up to do when they volunteered for an immersive experience in design thinking.

A four-day, hands-on learning experience offered a vehicle for connecting students with their community.

Chad Faber, director of the Knight Family Scholars Program at Catlin Gabel School, an independent K-12 school in Portland, Oregon facilitated the four-day, hands-on learning experience along with Greg Bamford (@gregbamford) from the Leading is Learning collaborative in Seattle. Several more Catlin Gabel staffers took part to learn by doing, building a cohort of teachers with design chops.

Watching this class unfold in Portland, I was reminded that design thinking also offers a perfect vehicle for connecting students with their community.

Understanding User Needs

One of the first assignments students tackled: Hit the streets, food carts, and shopping malls of Portland to interview complete strangers about their shoes. What problems do their shoes pose? Which factors influence their footwear choices? This exercise in empathy took students out of their comfort zone and got them thinking about the needs of specific users (other than themselves).

One all-boy team, for instance, was surprised to learn from a middle-aged woman that she carries an extra pair of shoes to work each day. Her wish: a shoe that’s comfortable enough for walking from home to bus to office, but dressy enough for a professional setting.

Continue Reading about How To Use Design Thinking To Teach Problem Solving.

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