PROBLEM-SOLVING COLLABORATIVE CHALLENGES
WHAT IS IT? WHY DO WE DO IT?
On weeks where the schedule's upset by holidays or other events, quick STEAM challenges can keep the kids immersed in design thinking and reinforce collaborative habits. It also gives them a chance to problem solve and create with constraints since we often limit the amount of materials available to push their thinking further and cultivate flexible mindsets.
We tap into a couple of great websites to get fodder for our challenges. We also invent some ourselves in order to keep immersed in designing STEAM curriculum. Basically we follow the same structure as for all of our design tech challenges: 1) present the challenge and the materials; 2) solo silent sketch brainstorm; 3) explain or pitch ideas to collaborative team, get feedback; 4) adjust and adapt thinking; 5) decide on best prototype design to construct; 6) build, test and adjust; 7) share final prototypes; and finally, 8) reflection on the experience.
Interestingly enough after we started to do weekly design tech work with our students, they expected that they would have multiple weeks to work through problems. This was an "ah-ha" moment for us and we had to adapt our thinking about "one-off" activities. We found that the kids did better thinking when given more process time. Lots of times thinking went on during the week that then transformed projects on Friday. Time is important in establishing new thinking patterns and habits. If you can find a way to make this time sacred, you will find that your kids will really begin to engage meaningfully in this type of work.
© 2014 Dana Melvin and Susie Mutschler