People often ask us what kinds of design thinking projects our youngest students take on. The Dragonflies Design Team of Hamilton Disston School, made up of five kindergartners and their teacher, Mrs. Tobin, had no trouble identifying problems that could become a DT Philly project. The challenges they considered included school equipment that is falling apart or not working, unkind behavior by fellow students, inadequate classroom storage, and promoting healthy and hygienic practices.
They decided to focus on a problem in their classroom that affects them every day: the fact that there aren’t enough cubbies for the number of students in the class. Both the size of the class and the fact that some of the cubbies are in disrepair means students have to share the storage spaces. Why is this a problem? The cubbies aren’t large enough to hold two coats and two book bags, so students’ belongings frequently get pushed onto or fall onto the floor, where they may be stepped on throughout the day. Students in the class shared that this makes them feel mad and sad.
The Dragonflies, who meet twice a week after school to work on their DT Philly project, came up with some goals for their design solution…they want to keep students’ belongings safe, they want to keep things from falling out of the cubbies, and they want the cubbies to be attractive and in good shape,. They brainstormed ideas to achieve these goals, such as using a rope to keep items inside the cubbies, adding doors with locks to all of the cubbies to keep items securely in, adding shelving to hold certain items, and decorating the cubbies.
Their teacher reports that the Dragonflies are enjoying their DT Philly experience. An activity they particularly liked was the warm-up for their brainstorming which challenged them to find creative new ways to eat different foods. In fact, the kindergartners had so much fun with that activity they continued to do it, according to Mrs. Tobin: “They showed me for weeks every time we ate breakfast or lunch how they could eat that food item differently. They love to be silly."
While the Dragonflies’ DT Philly project is almost complete, the team is noticing other problems in the school that they’d like to address, like preventing students from throwing trash on the floor. With DT Philly, the students are learning they have the skills and potential to tackle all kinds of problems around them!