A Design Challenge that Goes Deep

September 7, 2017

Collaborating in groups is daily work at Prospect Sierra. But before students dive in, they think about how they’d like to collaborate and together, define a shared set of expectations for this group work. At the start of the school year, new groups are formed and this week students conducted a design challenge as part of this process of setting expectations.

First, they brainstormed how they want to feel when working in groups and behaviors that they believe support these feelings. Feelings they hope to feel include respected, excited, supported, confident, and included. Behaviors that support these feelings included not talking over one another, recognizing each other’s positive contributions, taking turns, being brave, and sharing ideas.

Then, to help the process take on life, they learned that a creature named “Harry” (a puffball with eyes) was feeling sad because he could not see well enough at the table top level. They were then tasked with creating a perch for Harry that kept him safe from an elevated height, with a time limit and set of materials to work with. After building their perches, groups had to evaluate how well they had followed their agreed upon behaviors, giving and receiving feedback about where they had been successful and where they could improve.

What appears to be a simple hands-on project, building Harry’s new perch, is actually a great example of how we use collaboration and design thinking to help our students think deeply, build empathy for others, develop their own self-knowledge around emotions, and practice working through challenges with others.