BACKPACK TAG DESIGN CHALLENGE: A GRADE 3 RIFF OFF THE d.school's "WALLET CHALLENGE"

WHAT IS IT? WHY DID WE DO IT?

Most third grade students don’t have a wallet so we shifted the focus of this activity, (a Stanford d.school classic intro design project), onto something that all third grade students do have: a backpack! We were interested in starting the year with a quick design project that would teach the steps involved in design thinking and ratchet up fun and engagement for our students. We also are quite aware that grade three is a time of developmental transition from a family/self-defined to a peer/socially- defined landscape. We wanted to insert an empathy chip into our lead off activity by having the students design for each other.

We built off some fundamental design thinking structures learned at the Nueva School's Design Thinking Workshop.

Our Needs statement was:

Grade 3 students NEED a backpack ID tag so if they lose their backpacks, they can find them again.

HOW DID WE DO IT?

These were the basic steps we took:

  •    Interview partner
Students interviewed each other trying to dig for stories that could inspire tag designs.

Students interviewed each other trying to dig for stories that could inspire tag designs.

Students record interview information to use while planning and designing

Students record interview information to use while planning and designing

  • Sketch possible ideas based on partner interview
Students were encouraged to do multiple quick sketches in order to capture ideas. Dividing the page into fours and using a timer to encourage production were helpful keys to generating thinking.

Students were encouraged to do multiple quick sketches in order to capture ideas. Dividing the page into fours and using a timer to encourage production were helpful keys to generating thinking.

  • Pitch and explain to partners
We had to teach into listening skills and used a timer to honor each person's voice. The students conducting the interview were introduced to key words to help them did deeper for information: "Why?" "Tell me more..."

We had to teach into listening skills and used a timer to honor each person's voice. The students conducting the interview were introduced to key words to help them did deeper for information: "Why?" "Tell me more..."

  •  Gather feedback
  • Sketch new ideas or evolve idea based on feedback
Students evolved sketch prototypes based on feedback.

Students evolved sketch prototypes based on feedback.

  • Build prototype
Students were given a lot of materials and choices from which to construct their prototypes.

Students were given a lot of materials and choices from which to construct their prototypes.

  • Share and celebrate
It was incredible to watch how meaningful these simply constructed tags were because everyone had experienced the design cycle and appreciated how much work had gone into the process.

It was incredible to watch how meaningful these simply constructed tags were because everyone had experienced the design cycle and appreciated how much work had gone into the process.

REFLECTION

 QUESTIONING AND FEEDBACK REDUX: BACKPACK TAGS

This year we followed the flow of our original lesson plan from last year but added a few significant tweaks.

In talking with a learning support colleague, we recognized that many third graders have difficulty identifying, recognizing and using question words in a way that allows an interviewer to gather useful information.  Before we began the interview portion of our design challenge, we added an intentional brainstorm of question words.

After the students completed their interview, we asked them to identify which of the question words they used repeatedly.  Each student was given 6-8 stickers and they put them on the questions that were most used and helpful.  We were able to notice students looking at their interview notes and thinking carefully about how they gathered the information.  We anticipate that this second layer of identifying and acknowledging effective questions will serve to deepen the students’ ability to interview.

On our redux of the Backpack Tag design challenge, we were interested in pulling out the empathy piece a little more intentionally.  This is the first project where students are asked to consider, understand and reflect on someone else’s interests when designing.  In order to capture their thinking about how this process of deliberately designing for someone went, we asked them to jot some thinking about interviewing, ideation, feedback, and making a prototype.  Additionally, we left some open-ended space to capture any other thoughts the students had about making the tags.  While we scaffold reflections intentionally at the beginning of the year to identify what students know, we also want to leave some parts of the feedback process wide open.  We find that often the students will surprise us with what they learn, notice or are excited about.  When we find out what interests and drives the students, we can use this feedback to develop future challenges or morph current projects.

Finally, we decided to use technology to capture and share the reflection of the Backpack Tag design process in a visual way.  The students were all responsible for making a Doodlecast to show their experience.  We asked them to use their writing and consider how they would want to share the process with someone who hadn’t been a part of it.  Completing a Doodlecast gave many layers of information: who can complete a multiple step process, who can add on to or elaborate thinking (already written), who can think of an audience when making a presentation.  

This is our first experience this year with Doodlecast though we will intentionally use it throughout the year to record thinking in many curricular areas.


Once again we found the students to be engaged and excited about both the process and the challenge! 


RESOURCES

Design Thinking prototype we are working with at our school

Stanford d.school's Design Thinking Boot Camp

© 2014 Dana Melvin and Susie Mutschler