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Diary of Design Thinkers

Monday, June 12, 2017

What gets you going in the morning?  For a group of 4th graders at Laura H. Carnell School, it was coming to school extra early two days a week to work with their teacher, Erin Richardson, on a DT Philly project.

The nine students, who called themselves the Diary of Design Thinkers, were eager to tackle a problem they encountered every day—their lunchroom experience.  They began by identifying different frustrations, including fighting and bad behavior, the large amount of food wasted, and unfair procedures for queuing.  In taking on this challenge, the Diary of Design Thinkers chose to stop being bystanders and to start being “upstanders,” and problem solvers in their school community.

During the Ideate Stage of their project, the team generated possible solutions to the three main problems they identified…a system that allows students to order electronically and have lunch delivered to their tables, eliminating the need for queuing; reducing food waste by changing rules and procedures so students can take only the items they want instead of all of the items in the meal; and a consequence/accountability system for students who fight or are disruptive. 

For prototyping and testing, the 4th graders focused on the idea that seemed to offer the best mix of feasibility and desirability:  a community service program for students who are caught fighting.  Their model calls for the dean to assign transgressors a community service task, such as helping clean the cafeteria, which must be completed the same day.  The solution promotes two goals that would make lunchtime more pleasant—decreasing fights by providing a direct and immediate consequence for negative behavior, and improving physical conditions in the cafeteria. 

While the team’s project was important and serious, the students had fun throughout DT Philly, finding creative ways to share their work with the DT Philly community and enjoying inspiration activities like Eat Differently, where students came up with creative ways to eat different snacks.  One student put Nerds candy in her Oreo cookie!  Another student twirled a Fruit Roll Up onto a fork to eat it! 

The team, which included several students who participated in DT Philly as third graders, has started noticing other problems in their school they’d like to solve.  We can’t wait to see what these upstanding creative thinkers do next!