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The Mighty Morphin Power Designers Set Their Sights on Improving the School Reward System

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Reward systems are a common strategy schools use to help teach positive behaviors and improve school climate.  The arrival of a reward system at William C. Longstreth School this year—one in which students earn “Scholar Dollars” that can be redeemed for things like stickers, pencils, and small toys—came with an unanticipated frustration:  students losing their reward “money,” or having it stolen, before they can spend it.

A team of eighth graders called the Mighty Morphin Power Designers was quick to spot this problem and decided to tackle it for their DT Philly project.  Under the guidance of their teacher, Mr. Rocco, the students began by framing their challenge with a question:  “How might we create a way to keep student money safe in school, and better way to spend money, so students can want to earn more Scholar Dollars?”  Their goal is to improve the current system in ways that motivate students to behave better in order to earn rewards.  As one team member explained, “It is important to teachers and students because students will be more eager to listen so they can buy things.”

After researching students’ and teachers’ frustrations with the current system, the team began ideating ways to address common problems such as preventing theft, preventing dollars from being reused once they are redeemed, helping students keep track of their rewards, improving student behavior, and making it more attractive for students to participate.  Some of their ideas included starting a bank where students can deposit their scholar dollars, creating different kinds of coding systems to thwart theft and reuse, and improving the offerings that students can earn with Scholar Dollars.

Before deciding which ideas to prototype, the team thought through the potential pitfalls of each idea. For example, how could the students operate a bank—and how could their classmates access it—when everyone has to be in class?  How would students behave in the hallway if they were allowed to leave class to go to the bank?  Would color coding or otherwise differentiating rewards to make it easier to spot theft be too complicated to serve as a practical solution? 

The Mighty Morphin Power Designers are asking all the right questions and attracting school-wide attention with their thoughtful approach to this problem.  Now in the midst of prototyping, the team is building two models for a bank, and three different designs for the reward money itself.  We’re excited to see how their ideas evolve through prototyping and testing!