What problems do you see every day? At Sheppard Elementary School, a team of creative 3rd and 4th graders noticed that bullying is a persistent problem among their peers, and they decided to see what they could do about it.
Sheppard is fortunate to have a Playworks coach to assist with recess as well as teachers who talk to students about bullying, but the team noticed that kids still say and do hurtful things when adults aren’t around. The design team wanted to address this difficult problem so everyone in their school can feel safe and comfortable.
To better understand their problem, the designers interviewed friends as well as students who weren’t their friends. They also observed classmates’ behavior, paying attention to students who said nice or mean things, and taking note of how those words made other students feel. After gathering this information and brainstorming, the team decided to focus their solution on the lunchroom, where there is less adult supervision and students are more likely engage in hurtful behavior.
Focused on promoting positive interactions and creating a culture of kindness, the team designed a compliment jar program where students write nice things to their peers. They realized that different age groups might need different materials, so they tested their program using two versions of compliment cards—one for kindergarteners and 1st graders, and one for 2nd-4th graders. They even made a chart to explain what a compliment looks like.
The team tested their concept with classmates and were met with mixed results. Looking at what worked and what didn’t work gave the team insights they could use to improve their design idea. Their next steps will include making the cards bright and colorful so they are more appealing to students and attract more attention. They also realized they need to provide more instructions to students, and they want to make Spanish-language versions of the cards so everyone at the school can participate.
The team enjoyed working together to make a difference at their school, but they also looked forward to fun DT Philly activities like warming up for brainstorming by finding creative new ways to eat different snack foods. After learning about design and practicing their design skills, some of the students think it might be fun to pursue a career in industrial or experience design. When they do, we hope they’ll come back and volunteer with DT Philly!