Sunday, September 07, 2014

Grade 7 Final Project | Using Design Thinking | Part 1

by Erin Quinn
I should have posted this a LONG time ago. This is a cross post from
A cross-curricular final project has been a tradition in our grade team at Samuel W. Shaw School since the school opened five years ago. This year, our final project became much richer due to the addition of the Maker Kit Pilot in which we’re participating.
We started this project through the lens of a novel called Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. The novel is centred around a teenager named Miranda and her family. She lives a very normal life until a meteor knocks the moon’s orbit closer to the earth. And then things start happening. Tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanos cause the power grid to fail, oil tankers to sink, and modern technology to cease to work.
The final project has students trying to design a strategy to survive in this new reality. In our project, we used the CTF curriculum to create areas of focus that would be affected by the moon disaster. Then students selected an area of interest, and are focusing on designing a strategy around that area.
Students began by researching their area of focus prior to the disaster. Then they hypothesized what the disaster would change in their area of focus.
And then we began the design process.
First, students started by brainstorming as many ways they could think of to solve their problem. This is an important part of the generation phase of creative thinking. The more ideas they have, the more choices they’ll have, and the more likely it is they’ll have a good idea. One of the problems we ran into here was students who thought of an idea right away and wanted to skip the whole process and get straight to making. In those cases, I told students that they should write down their idea, but to create a “bank” of more ideas. I let them know their original idea would still be there when they were done, but they never knew if a better idea might come up in the process.
A list of ideas from the community care group.
Some design ideas from the electro-technology group
After they had a list of ideas, they selected their favourite, and thought about how to make a prototype. This is the stage many of the students are at right now. So they’re diving into the bin of great stuff in the Maker Kit.
Today, some of the students were checking out what Little Bits could do. Their topic is communication. Their idea going in was to create a robot pigeon that would deliver messages. As they played with the Little Bits, their ideas changed, morphed, and grew. They thought of other possibilities, like a siren warning system for natural disasters. This is an incredibly important part of maker education – using your hands to discover new ideas.

I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next!
Read Part 2 and Part 3 here.
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