A Catholic, independent, college-prep school for girls, ages 1 – 12th grade.
Meet the Innovators
Posted 02/10/2017 09:05AM

By Liz Manthey

For the past two years, several faculty members have represented Sacred Heart at workshops, conferences and education think-tanks focused on the implementation of Design Thinking in education. While its principles have been employed in design firms for decades, its potential impact in education with regard to 21st century learning has recently risen to the forefront of educational research.

What is Design Thinking?
It's all about the process. Design Thinking is not a replacement for the innovative teaching that has been the foundation of Sacred Heart education for years. It is, in essence, a new layer. Developed by David Kelley of the Stanford University Hasso Plattner Institute of Design and IDEO Corporation, the Design Thinking process acts as a bridge between knowledge and invention. It provides students with a tool, a system with which they can manage their thinking. Using this process, students learn to operate inside complexity, to find their way to simplicity and innovation as they address real-world issues.

The Design Thinking Process

Empathy
It begins with empathy. Students research, conduct interviews, design surveys and observe.
"Do we have a deep understanding of the needs of the user?"

Definition
Empathy is followed by definition. Students synthesize their findings and begin to define their focus.
"How might we... focus on this particular need or address the user's needs as a whole?"

Ideation
In the ideation stage, students exercise divergent thinking and build on the ideas of others, adding as many ideas as possible to Post-It notes and courageously pushing the boundaries of predictable thinking. It is about quantity over quality, courage over perfection. During this process, unpredictable yet possible solutions begin to rise to the surface.
"What if we..."

Prototype and Test
Perhaps most applicable to the 21st century learning skillset is the prototype stage. Students design and build low-tech solutions and then participate in feedback sessions embedded in growth-mindset language. As students present their ideas to colleagues, they are encouraged to enhance their solution-centered designs. The learned technique of both giving and receiving feedback creates an environment in which students are empowered to fail forward—to re-think, re-adjust and re-imagine. Students test their final solutions by sharing them with the learning community and possibly the intended user.
"I like..." "I wish there was a way to..." "What if..."

How We Apply Design Thinking

A look within... Armed with this new system, the faculty and administration turned their attention to the Sacred Heart curriculum and community. With a deep understanding of the needs of our students and our school, they asked:

How might we...?

  • Use the Design Thinking process to ignite collaboration and innovation in our school community.

What if we...?

  • Create design spaces where teachers and students across disciplines and divisions can incubate ideas using the Design Thinking process.
  • Teach students the Design Thinking process to help them create impactful solutions to complex global and environmental challenges.
  • Design collaborative, cross-curricular opportunities for students to experiment with solutions to real-world problems—to innovate for a purpose.
  • Use our collective imagination to promote active thinking and making.
  • Create systems and spaces for individual mentoring opportunities that support student-initiated projects and ideas.
  • Build makerspaces where teachers and students can test assumptions and build prototypes used to validate ideas—a place to test, share, question and build STEAM related inventions.
  • Design safe-spaces where feedback and re-design are embedded into the curriculum.

Welcome to the Year of the Prototype

Little Hearts Creation Stations
Each Little Hearts classroom is equipped with materials that allow children to engage, create, problem solve and take risks. Students are given the opportunity to learn about new materials and combine them in innovative ways. This challenges students to discover, build and experience the techniques of engineers, contractors and artists.

Lower School Makerspace
The Lower School Makerspace is located in an extension to the science lab. Students in kindergarten through fourth grade have access to and participate in various activities and challenges that are built into the science curriculum. Third and fourth grade students are given the opportunity to participate in the after-school program "Imagineers." In addition to wood, paper products, art supplies, wiring, electric circuit materials, styrofoam, Legos and a variety of other materials, the Makerspace is equipped with the Rigamajig building system. With the new location of the Tech Café across from the Makerspace, teachers provide students with cross-curricular opportunities for innovation and design.

Middle and Upper School Innovation Lab and Makerspace
Located in the newly designed space in the Mother Soniat Library, the Middle and Upper School Innovation Lab and Makerspace hosts Middle School students for regularly scheduled classes. Kitty Mattesky, the Innovation Lab Coordinator, presents students with Design Thinking challenges that parallel the curriculum and contain real-world applications. Mrs. Mattesky has begun to work with Middle and Upper School faculty to create collaborative, cross-curricular challenges that provide students opportunities to design and prototype solutions. In addition, individual students are empowered to utilize the Innovation Lab and the Design Thinking process to create ways to take action, make connections and prototype solutions to issues about which they are most passionate.

Feedback
Kitty Mattesky, Innovation Lab Coordinator, shares her feedback on what is going well and how Sacred Heart can further develop the Design Thinking program in the future.

"I like..."

  • The 100% student engagement in every single challenge.
  • The courage and confidence displayed in a student as she writes her own idea on a Post-It, says it aloud and adds it to the mix of thinking.
  • A (more) relaxed, confident student approach to complexity.
  • Each student's absolute thirst for BUILDING the prototype.
  • The beautiful, growing comfort within the feedback cycle.

"I wish there was a way to..."

  • Spend more time in the empathy stage. --> What if we regroup and ask for student feedback to design ways to make this happen?
  • Have better materials to use in the building of the prototype. --> What if we make a list of things parents might have around the house and ask them to donate?
  • Design more opportunities for Upper School students to use the Innovation Lab for invention. --> What if we design curriculum that connects with another Sacred Heart school to solve a global issue?

This is the beginning of something great.

- The Bridge, Winter 2017

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