The Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) directed by Digital Promise initiative is actively improving learning opportunities for students and teachers in 46 middle schools across 14 states and the District of Columbia.
In addition to providing teachers and students with always-available access to technology, every VILS location promotes STEM principles across the curriculum. Building STEM-related skills and mindsets helps students prepare for their futures in the long term, and teaches a new way of creative thinking and learning in the short term. Teachers can adopt the design thinking process to empower students to solve problems that are meaningful and relevant to them.
One teacher at Sabin Middle School in Colorado Springs created a STEM challenge project for her students that embraced the design thinking process and Challenge Based Learning: redesign the school cafeteria. In the video below, you’ll see how students tackled each stage of the challenge and leveraged technology to help them solve problems along the way.
The idea for this project grew out of student feedback from a school-wide survey. Students wanted a new media space and a more flexible lunch period. To meet both needs, the seventh grade science teacher developed a project challenging her students to redesign the school cafeteria to incorporate media into a flexible lunch space.
Students began the project by doing research and interviewing school and district-level stakeholders. After gathering the necessary background information, they split into groups and created prototypes of potential cafeteria designs. Students documented this process using their tablets and were able to go back, review their work, and make adjustments. Taking photos and videos of the modeling process also allowed different groups to share easily their thought process and unique designs with the whole class.
This project was empowering for students in many ways. Students directed their own learning by embarking on a meaningful, relevant challenge to solve and then tackling it from different angles.
This is what learning can look like for students when they feel authentic ownership over their projects and are given the flexibility to find creative solutions. Solving a problem that comes directly from the needs of student body is far more relevant than a textbook assignment. The design thinking process provides an interactive opportunity for students to learn STEM skills, leverage technology, and embrace creative solutions to real world, meaningful challenges. Lunch time at Sabin Middle School will never be the same!