“Can you take these pieces of pasta, some tape, and a glue gun and build a bridge across the water that a car can go over and a boat can go under?”
This was the challenge presented to pre-first students at The Westminster Schools today during their Design Thinking lab (aka Skunkworks Lab). Every student in the elementary school at Westminster participates in a weekly session in the Skunkworks lab where they are given the opportunity to explore, brainstorm, and create using a Design Thinking process inspired by Stanford’s d.school. Teachers guide teams through 3 phases: the research phase involving collaboration and building content knowledge; the experimental phase for designing and implementing experiments; and the design phase which requires the creation of a solution to an authentic need. The goals are to have students identify needs and problems with empathy, unlock creative potential, and gain a new attitude towards failure while addressing real challenges connected to the skills of our academic curriculum.
Today’s challenge for pre-1st students had them collaborating in teams to design, build, and test bridges. With just this one challenge, students used math, science, art, and engineering to accomplish this task. Forty-five minutes later and amongst a few broken pieces of pasta, some soggy noodles, and a couple of nicks from the tape dispenser and we had 5 different bridges with matchbox cars going over them and boats (made previously by the kids) floating under them. Students were engaged, excited, learning, and looking forward to upcoming challenges in the Skunkworks Lab. Look out for future backpack designs, roly-poly terrariums, new playground equipment, public service announcements about bullying, and much more to come out of Skunkworks Lab 2012.
written and submitted by Jane Simpkins