This is Miss Cindy. She’s a teacher in our school. She has an assist dog, Sugar, to help her get around but it’s not always easy, especially with all the things she needs to carry. One day a fellow teacher realized that our kids might be able to use design thinking to help. We asked her if she’d like to be the focus of a study around her mobility and how we might make things easier for her; she said yes. And that’s how the 6th grade capstone was born.
It’s easy to take things for granted in life. For example, consider our senses – smell, hearing, sight – we don’t think about them a lot. They’re just there. Same goes for things like walking. But it’s not so easy for some people, like our Miss Cindy. Whether it’s opening a heavy door, or navigating tight spaces, or moving heavy things around – it can be a struggle. Every day.
How will students use design thinking to help?
First, they’ll gain empathy by understanding as much as possible about Miss Cindy’s everyday life at school, from when she first arrives to when she leaves and everything she does teaching her students in between. They’ll learn a bit about her condition, the challenges it introduces, how she copes, and how Sugar helps, too.
Next, they’ll define the challenges she faces in the context of her work day, creating some boundaries around areas of focus.
Then, they’ll ideate – think about possible solutions – which will be explored, explained, taken apart, put back together, over and over until they’ve got something they want to create.
The prototypes they make – physical, digital, or experiential – will then have to be designed and documented.
Finally, the prototypes will be presented to Miss Cindy for her to test, provide feedback on, so the kids can iterate again.
The focus here is the process, not the product. We don’t know if we’ll be able to invent something to make Miss Cindy’s life better, but, we might! We do know that we’ll learn a lot about design thinking and how it can be used to solve problems, imparting a critical life skill to these kids in the process.
Stay tuned for more!