Building upon what I wrote last week about what I want to teach the world, I would like to suggest that all Design Thinkers ever need to know they learned in Kindergarten. As I read the articles and blogs and watched the videos this week, I couldn’t help but think that in Kindergarten we DO this. It is not defined or labeled as such, but intrinsically and intuitively Kindergarten teachers and their students are Design Thinkers deep down.
One of the frameworks for Design Thinking that resonated with me is the DEEP Design Thinking Model. The following graphic from DEEP creator, Mary Cantwell‘s website DEEPDesignThinking.com illustrates the DEEP model in very kid-friendly terms that I can relate to. Let’s face it…I teach Kindergarten and Grade One, not Grade 12 Physics or Philosophy (what I would consider the most difficult high school courses for me). Everything has to start somewhere and in Kindergarten we develop the building blocks of knowledge, skills and attitudes that students will demonstrate in higher grades.
For each of the four letters in DEEP there is a connection to what we do every day in Kindergarten.
DISCOVER: inquire, explore, research
Every day there is something new to DISCOVER in Kindergarten. Whether it be discovering how play dough feels when it squishes between our fingers, or watching a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, children daily explore their environment in the classroom and out in nature. There is no greater joy than observing a child making new discoveries about the world around them! To see a child an interest, ask questions, look for answers in books and online and begin to research is such a wonderful sight to behold.
EMPATHIZE: understand, needfind, define
With every task in Kindergarten, whether as simple as learning the formation of letters or as complex as critical thinking and inferring meaning into texts or social emotional situations, everything is a search for meaning and definition. Why do we do things the way we do? Why do we learn things in a particular order? Why do we stretch our brains and “think outside the box”? Everything we do is to promote understanding and empathy. Empathizing with each other puts a framework around the fact that each learner is at a different place on the continuum of development. Knowing that each classmate does not learn at the same rate, nor has the same capabilities or expertise allows the children to have a broader scope of appreciation for each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
EXPERIMENT: prototype, ideate, hmw
A large part of Kindergarten is creating and making things. Lego, blocks, sand, water, elastic bands, paper, crayons, paints and whatever other materials the children can get their hands on are all materials that young children can use to demonstrate their Design Thinking. It is this experimentation through PLAY that children learn. My students will often create, build, break-down, rebuild or recreate during their play time.
PRODUCE: storytell, feedback, iterate
My students have become very proud of the products of their designs. Whether it be their blog posts to show their learning, or their creations, they have developed a sense of the importance of sharing and making learning visible. Before Christmas, one of our activities was “Santa’s Workshop” where my students had to design a toy that Santa would make, draw it in 2D, then produce a prototype in 3D from the materials we had around the classroom. I can’t think of a better example of Design Thinking. My students were given a task that they felt very strongly about, and used their design knowledge to produce an end product. You can see an example of a finished blog here where my student has uploaded a photo of her green prints (Santa doesn’t use blueprints 😉 ) and a photo of her finished product. For those of you who don’t read invented spelling, her title says “Scaredy Squirrel” and is based on the books by Melanie Watt. Notice that Scaredy Squirrel has a nut just like in the books? What took about three days of very hard work could be seen as “just play” to an outsider, but it shows me that my students are truly learning the fundamental building blocks of education. These students are digging DEEP (pun intended) and are becoming Design Thinkers.