California Educator

February / March 2019

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Page 27 of 71

Design thinking teaches students and educators to be fearless problem-solvers By Julian Peeples M A G I N E A N E W planet similar to Earth has been discovered and you are asked to help build the first city there. What would you name the city? How would you ensure it meets the needs of people who live there? Where would you even start? ese were just a few of the questions that educator Tess Dickerson asked her kindergarten class in 2017 for a project using an innovative approach called "design thinking." Assisted by a buddy class of fifth-graders, these kindergartners identified needs and developed ideas before building prototypes of these ideas, like a slide for city resi- dents to ride from their hotel to a nearby restaurant. After testing and refining their ideas, the students built their city out of recyclables. "We spent the whole morning building," says Dickerson, a teacher with Vista Unified School District and member of the Vista Teachers Association. "I don't know how many times I heard the kids say, 'is is the best day ever!' " Design thinking is an approach to creative problem-solv- in g that fo cuse s on profe ssional d e si gn m etho d s, li ke empathizing and experimentation, to develop innovative solutions to questions or problems. Birthed in the 1950s, it initially guided the creation of new products that solved consumer problems or fulfilled certain needs, before starting to appear in education a couple of decades later and more frequently in the 2000s. In design thinking, students follow a six-step process (see sidebar, page 29) that encourages the same kind of thinking process an inventor or engineer would use. But instead of inventing a better light bulb or designing a freeway inter- change, students explore issues that are relevant to their lives. is year, Dickerson's kindergartners are pondering "How do you stay safe at school?" I Say hello to some of Vista Unified's youngest designers. These kindergartners answer questions from fifth- graders about the new city they designed. 26 feature

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