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January 8, 2015

Emphasizing Empathy With a Design Challenge

By Kriscia Cabral
Grades 3–5

    Design thinking is a guiding principle at my school. Teaching students how to think with design in mind enhances student creativity and promotes problem solving. We’ve done a couple of design projects for peers in and out of our classroom. I wanted our next challenge to be one where students had to connect and empathize with a main character from a story. The following design challenge did just that, along with a little bit of engineering and a whole lot of fun.

    The lesson began with a review of the steps in design thinking:

    • Find a problem

    • Ideate/brainstorm solutions

    • Draw a design/prototype

    • Test it

    • Try again if you don’t succeed at first

    • Share with others when prototype is ready

     

    Introduce the Book

    Egg Drop, by Mini Grey is a story about a young egg. All the egg ever wanted to do was fly. The egg's mother told the egg to just be patient; his time to fly would come. The egg could not wait! It wanted to sightsee from above. One day the egg decides to climb to the very top of a tower and jump. The egg is thrilled at the feeling of flying, only to find out he’s not flying, he’s falling. While the ending is bittersweet, the main idea hit home with my students: How can we help the egg fulfill his dream of safely flying? There was our problem (design process step one, check).

     

    We wrote the problem nice and big on our problem statement template and talked about what our next step was: brainstorm solutions. 

     

    Brainstorming

    Students worked in small groups of three or four and brainstormed ways of helping the egg fly and land safely. I reminded students that brainstorming and ideating is a time to get all ideas voiced to the group. They should be written down and considered. Groups would then need to come to a consensus on a final decision for the group’s prototype.

     

    Prototyping

    Students were responsible for drawing a sketch and labeling the supplies they would need in order to create their prototype. Prototypes were drawn on the template.

    We shared prototype sketches, gathered feedback from peers, and made any necessary changes based on the feedback given. The next step was to actually create the prototypes that we would test with real eggs.

     

    Designing

    Designing is the step the students love most. This is when supplies come out and drawings come to life. Many supplies could be found in our "makery space" (rooms that we have that are designated for making and creating things), and could be used by students. However, if students had specific materials or containers that they wanted, they would have to bring them from home. Two one-hour sessions of prototype building were given. This work was done in the same small groups that students created to complete the first two steps of the design process: brainstorming and drawing their sketch.

    Students were working together to share supplies, problem-solve when they did not have a certain material that they wanted, and use creative thinking to design their egg flying creation.

    We shared our final prototypes as a class and then it was time to test!

     

    Testing Prototypes

    For testing we used the fenced walkway connecting second floor classrooms. This was a high enough location for students to get to and safely drop their flying creations. Before each group dropped their egg, they shared why they made their creation, the purpose behind their design and why they believed the egg would enjoy it. This was the piece that I found key to the design. I wanted to make sure they had empathized with the egg and his dream of flying or at least falling safely. The answer to this question became evident not only in the creations students made, but in the explanations that were shared. Every creation that students made had the egg in mind.

    Before dropping:

    • Students were reminded that this is only one of the many ideas that they brainstormed and that it was a prototype.

    • Students were reminded that if their contraption was not successful, they would need to persevere and try again. This would not be the end of their ability to create, this would be an opportunity to learn and grow.

    • Eggs were given to students just before their time to drop as a safety precaution to the egg's life. Students placed the egg in his flying contraption and were then off to the second-story bridge for their drop.

     

    Celebrating Successes and Failed Attempts

    Each group took a turn dropping the egg and letting him fall with style. There were successes and there were some “sunny-side” endings. All those that tried were congratulated with an "E" for effort. We celebrated every attempt even when the egg did not withstand the fancy fall. You can see in the video below that they put their "all" into this project.

    Students went back to their design drawing on the design thinking template and reflected on what they learned from the egg experience. Groups that were not so successful also wrote about what they would do differently next time.

    The egg drop challenge was a fun way to review the design-thinking process. Students connected with the egg and wanted to give him the opportunity to “fly.” Students used collaboration and teamwork to make something for a character they empathized with. 

    Do you have book suggestions that could be paired with a design challenge? Please share in the comments section below.

    Thank you for reading.

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

    Design thinking is a guiding principle at my school. Teaching students how to think with design in mind enhances student creativity and promotes problem solving. We’ve done a couple of design projects for peers in and out of our classroom. I wanted our next challenge to be one where students had to connect and empathize with a main character from a story. The following design challenge did just that, along with a little bit of engineering and a whole lot of fun.

    The lesson began with a review of the steps in design thinking:

    • Find a problem

    • Ideate/brainstorm solutions

    • Draw a design/prototype

    • Test it

    • Try again if you don’t succeed at first

    • Share with others when prototype is ready

     

    Introduce the Book

    Egg Drop, by Mini Grey is a story about a young egg. All the egg ever wanted to do was fly. The egg's mother told the egg to just be patient; his time to fly would come. The egg could not wait! It wanted to sightsee from above. One day the egg decides to climb to the very top of a tower and jump. The egg is thrilled at the feeling of flying, only to find out he’s not flying, he’s falling. While the ending is bittersweet, the main idea hit home with my students: How can we help the egg fulfill his dream of safely flying? There was our problem (design process step one, check).

     

    We wrote the problem nice and big on our problem statement template and talked about what our next step was: brainstorm solutions. 

     

    Brainstorming

    Students worked in small groups of three or four and brainstormed ways of helping the egg fly and land safely. I reminded students that brainstorming and ideating is a time to get all ideas voiced to the group. They should be written down and considered. Groups would then need to come to a consensus on a final decision for the group’s prototype.

     

    Prototyping

    Students were responsible for drawing a sketch and labeling the supplies they would need in order to create their prototype. Prototypes were drawn on the template.

    We shared prototype sketches, gathered feedback from peers, and made any necessary changes based on the feedback given. The next step was to actually create the prototypes that we would test with real eggs.

     

    Designing

    Designing is the step the students love most. This is when supplies come out and drawings come to life. Many supplies could be found in our "makery space" (rooms that we have that are designated for making and creating things), and could be used by students. However, if students had specific materials or containers that they wanted, they would have to bring them from home. Two one-hour sessions of prototype building were given. This work was done in the same small groups that students created to complete the first two steps of the design process: brainstorming and drawing their sketch.

    Students were working together to share supplies, problem-solve when they did not have a certain material that they wanted, and use creative thinking to design their egg flying creation.

    We shared our final prototypes as a class and then it was time to test!

     

    Testing Prototypes

    For testing we used the fenced walkway connecting second floor classrooms. This was a high enough location for students to get to and safely drop their flying creations. Before each group dropped their egg, they shared why they made their creation, the purpose behind their design and why they believed the egg would enjoy it. This was the piece that I found key to the design. I wanted to make sure they had empathized with the egg and his dream of flying or at least falling safely. The answer to this question became evident not only in the creations students made, but in the explanations that were shared. Every creation that students made had the egg in mind.

    Before dropping:

    • Students were reminded that this is only one of the many ideas that they brainstormed and that it was a prototype.

    • Students were reminded that if their contraption was not successful, they would need to persevere and try again. This would not be the end of their ability to create, this would be an opportunity to learn and grow.

    • Eggs were given to students just before their time to drop as a safety precaution to the egg's life. Students placed the egg in his flying contraption and were then off to the second-story bridge for their drop.

     

    Celebrating Successes and Failed Attempts

    Each group took a turn dropping the egg and letting him fall with style. There were successes and there were some “sunny-side” endings. All those that tried were congratulated with an "E" for effort. We celebrated every attempt even when the egg did not withstand the fancy fall. You can see in the video below that they put their "all" into this project.

    Students went back to their design drawing on the design thinking template and reflected on what they learned from the egg experience. Groups that were not so successful also wrote about what they would do differently next time.

    The egg drop challenge was a fun way to review the design-thinking process. Students connected with the egg and wanted to give him the opportunity to “fly.” Students used collaboration and teamwork to make something for a character they empathized with. 

    Do you have book suggestions that could be paired with a design challenge? Please share in the comments section below.

    Thank you for reading.

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

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