District Administration August 2018 - 24

BETTER BY
solving problems and of seeing the world.
Sam Seidel, director of K12 strategy and
research at Stanford's d.school, a leader in
design thinking, says it represents a way of
applying creativity to complex challenges:
Students learn to empathize with the people they are trying to help, to design solutions, to test and refine, and to embrace
failure as a learning opportunity. Along
the way they begin to navigate ambiguity,
experiment and interpret results.
This inherently optimistic process
shows students that anyone can make the
world a better place, says Becky Peters,
program manager at the Innovation Center at St. Vrain Valley Schools (32,000
students) in Colorado, which has taught
design thinking for nearly a decade.
"Everything around us is designed,
and everything can be redesigned," she

5 PHASES
OF DESIGN
THINKING

says. "That's really what we're doing in
education these days-helping students
understand that they can have that kind
of impact."
Not everything looks like a nail
St. Vrain Valley started teaching design
thinking in a high school STEM academy. That spread to the academy's feeder
schools and then throughout the district,
thanks to a 2012 Race to the Top grant for
STEM instruction.
Each summer the district hosts Innovation Academy, a two-week program in
which elementary schoolers visit a nearby
IBM facility to work with staff on design
challenges to solve environmental problems. This fall, the district will open an elementary school centered on design thinking, with concepts such as empathy and

EMPATHIZE: Gather information from users
IN ACTION: Fourth-graders in Colorado
solicited ideas from local residents to help
their city redesign a local park.
DEFINE: Frame the problem
IN ACTION: Administrators in Glenbrook
High Schools District 225 considered
student experience when redesigning
classrooms. They chose furniture that let
learners move around.

IDEATE: Generate possible solutions that meet users' needs
IN ACTION: Students in Colorado's St. Vrain Valley Schools have created
biodegradable drinking straws, habitats for honeybees, and soccer balls for
people who are blind.
PROTOTYPE: Build your solution
IN ACTION: Students following Northwestern University's FUSE curriculum
in their home districts have designed houses, roller coasters and cars-and
become the subject matter experts along the way.
TEST: Gather feedback, then refine or look for alternatives
IN ACTION: The Glenbrook district went through four rounds of testing
different classroom designs before choosing a solution.
Source: Stanford's d.school

24 August 2018

innovation at its foundation, and administrative decisions-from the curriculum
to the format of parent-teacher conferences to master scheduling-made using
design thinking. "It's not that everything
looks like a nail, and this is a hammer,"
says Peters. "We're trying to figure what we
need and what's the best methodology for
approaching it. A lot of time design thinking happens to be that methodology."
Design thinking can't be taught in
isolation, but it can be used in a range of
content-specific classes, from the humanities to STEM. St. Vrain Valley students as
young as pre-kindergarten have followed
design thinking to create biodegradable
drinking straws, habitats for embattled
honeybees, soccer balls for blind people
and a hat that relieves headache symptoms.
When the city of Longmont was preparing to redesign the playground at a public park, fourth-graders at nearby Indian
Peaks Elementary School interviewed park
users and prototyped designs that city
planners used to craft the real thing.
New interests equal success
While design thinking may be a polarizing term, these sorts of lessons-where
students design and test solutions-have
mainstream appeal, says Henry Mann,
program director at FUSE, an online
STEAM program developed at Northwestern University in Chicago.
"There are teachers across every kind
of school you can imagine who are desperately seeking out these kinds of experiences
for their students," he says.
FUSE started in 2012 in six schools; it
is now in 140, from schools in rural Michigan to tech-centric academies in Brooklyn.
Students choose from 30 challenges-they
can design a house, a roller coaster or a car,
for example. They gradually become the
subject matter experts with teachers acting
as facilitators.
Importantly, Mann says, students are
not evaluated by the number of challenges
they complete or by the quality of their
finished products. They are assessed on
whether they developed a new interest or
new expertise, or whether they exhibited
District Administration



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration August 2018

District Administration August 2018 - Cover1
District Administration August 2018 - Cover2
District Administration August 2018 - 1
District Administration August 2018 - 2
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District Administration August 2018 - 4
District Administration August 2018 - 5
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District Administration August 2018 - Cover3
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