Passion Projects Through Design

This past month I was honoured to be able to share my love of design when given the opportunity to be a part of a team of ETFO educators working with TVO to support alternative learning opportunities for students across Ontario. For the last number of years, I’ve been using design with students as a means of building empathy while problem solving in a real way. During this recent time of distance learning, my students participated in creating meaningful solutions related to covid-19. I was blown away by the ideas that were being crafted as we looked to have a positive impact during these challenging times. Having had the chance to work on this with students during this time, I thought using a similar framework could be a great way to get students solving problems related to their passions. In this post, I’ll share a little about each of the episodes from the Power Hour of Learning. Perhaps as we look to an uncertain September, some of the ideas contained may come in handy as we work with students to continue building some of these essential skills.

Part 1- Picking Your Passion and Understanding the Problem

Designers and Engineers are the people who make virtually everything that we use on a daily basis. In this episode, we have the opportunity to learn a little more about Designers and Engineers as we start to consider our passions. Identifying a passion is a challenge for some. This task alone can feel daunting to many. Earlier today I was speaking with a few colleagues and we spoke about ensuring that we are open to the possibility that students may be passionate about any number of things so it’s important to value what students share they are passionate about. In this episode, students are given the opportunity to brainstorm their passions a bit and then they start to think of some of the problems associated with that passion. Throughout the 3 parts, I share about a design project that I worked on with middle school students a few years back. Once they have identified a problem associated with their passion, we spend some time trying to get a complete picture of the problem by answering the 5Ws and how of the problem. The episode ends with students gaining a deeper understanding of their problem but also understanding that more research about the problem might be required before moving on. We really want to get a full picture or the real story about the problem before we start to think about potential solutions.

Part 2 – Ideation

This is by far my favourite part of the design process. It’s the part where students can use some of the tools used by designers and engineers to quickly come up with new and creative solutions to the problem they identified during part 1. Using Crazy 8s, students are guided through rapid ideation and are asked to consider a specific user for whom they would like to solve the problem. The episode ends with asking students to pick one of their ideas to move ahead with. In design, we’re always narrowing things down and focusing in on the problem. 

Part 3 – Storyboarding and Prototyping

Once students have identified the solution they are most interested in focusing on, they can start to consider the steps they will take to bring their idea to life. A prototype is a physical solution that they can put into the hands of their users to test out and students learn just how to do that in this episode. Whether they are creating a physical product or program or service, students are given the opportunity to get started on a plan of action that they can take. In this episode, students are also reminded of the importance of checking in with their users and feedback in the process.  At the end of the episode, students should be ready to get started on their prototypes.

It was such a pleasure to share my experiences in design on this platform. As we look to September, I wonder how I might be able to further connect students to their passions and how that can be a way in which students can further share about themselves with their new classmates. I can’t imagine what learning at a distance might look like as we start a new school year but I do know that honouring the individuals who show up will be of the utmost importance as we get started.

I hope that you have a happy and safe summer. See you again in September!

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Updated: June 30, 2020 — 9:38 pm

The Author

Arianna Lambert

I'm a grade 4/5 Teacher in the Toronto District School Board who loves integrating technology and mindfulness in the classroom. Through inquiry and design, I work with students who are engaged in meaningful learning opportunities; developing core competencies, while creating ways to make the world an even better place. I am the recipient of a TDSB Excellence Award for the co-creation of #tdsbEd, Twitter chats for educators. Through conversations on trends in Education from STEAM to Mindfulness, it has become an online community of educators dedicated to improving their practice to ensure greater student success, well-being and achievement.

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