A kindergarten class researched aquatic animals and then shared them with a partner. The partner then designed a habitat for the animal based on what they had learned about the animal’s needs. They presented their habitats back to their partners and got feedback on how to better meet the needs of the animal and then made a final product.
First graders were challenged with the task of designing holiday gifts for their family members. They started by interviewing family members at home about what they like. Then they prototyped potential gifts and took them back to the family members for feedback. After receiving feedback they created a final gift to present to their family member over the holidays.
One first grade teacher used the design process to address the challenge of what kids should do with their coats and boots in the winter. Before they tackled this issue, there were coats and boots everywhere and it was very challenging to get in and out of the classroom. The students were tasked with the challenge of designing a new system for their coats and boots. Not only did they come up with a workable solution, but by engaging in the process they started to care more about their classroom and the students started helping one another keep it cleaner as a whole.
A third grade class redesigned their school playground. They interviewed each other about what they liked and didn’t like about the playground and what they wished the playground had. They built prototypes and shared them with the group, next the students worked with the head of their school and the campus maintenance team to make sure that their ideas were feasible. Once they had finalized their ideas they created scale models which they presented to the rest of the lower school for feedback. Finally, the lower school selected a few ideas to move forward with and they remodeled their actual playground (with the help of campus maintenance).
Every year a fourth grade science class at an independent school in Colorado has participated in an inventions project where they create and market an invention that will fix a challenge in their own lives. To put a fresh spin on the lesson, the teacher adjusted the project to incorporate Design Thinking and had the students create inventions for one another rather than for themselves. The students produced prototypes of their inventions, got feedback from their “users” and refined their inventions to make a more successful product.
Ready to Read!
A librarian at a local school used Design Thinking to help solve a challenge she was facing: how could she more effectively get students excited about the new books in the library? Students who came to her library class interviewed other students about how they chose books and what gets them excited to read. Next, they designed and prototyped their ideas to promote a new book in the library. Students tested their designs over a couple of weeks and made observations about which techniques were most effective to get their school mates excited about reading.
Other Design Thinking Project Topics
The sky is the limit with how you can incorporate Design Thinking into existing lessons, use it to tackle challenges, or create new projects or lessons. Here are a few additional ideas of topics it has been applied to across a wide variety of grades.
1. Design with trash/recycling
2. Design for a location on campus
1. Trash and garbage awareness on campus
1. Design for a more organized classroom
1. Designing a turkey dinner for the family
2. Preparing the 2nd graders for their first overnight field trip
1. Designing a product for “mini society”
1. Designing a packaging system for a new business
2. Designing an electrical system for lights at an outdoor education camping experience
1. Designing a dream room for a partner
1. Design for an ecosystem
2. Outdoor sound garden
3. Creative play for pre-K