Design Thinking for Kids – The Design Way
Everything around us is designed …think about how a toothbrush you hold in the morning to brush your teeth, to the clothes, food, vehicles, mobiles, computers etc are all designed by professionals with considerations like materials, ergonomics, functionality, aesthetics etc. Lot of design thinking done to get those products and services to you.
Design Thinking: A Human-Centered Approach is a methodology, applicable to all walks of life, of creating new and innovative ideas and solving problems; it is not limited to a specific industry or area of expertise. It is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation.
What does it have to do with education?
Our Education system puts a lot of emphasis on what’s on paper. I have been taught this in school from the start. Scoring well in exams matters more than understanding, questioning and creating. A lot of people are aware that we really need to change this system, but they don’t know how. This is one method that could inspire people. It’s basically design thinking, adapted for kids. Design thinking is an approach to learning that focuses on developing students’ creative confidence.Teaching them to celebrate design and bring about problem solving to drive innovation.
The workshops are designed specifically for kids to cultivate creative confidence, collaborative skills, deepen observation, develop empathy, and align them around specific goals and results. Kids have an innate quality of being curious and questioning which can help them discover opportunities that everyone cannot see. The Design Way aims to inject design thinking into early education, as I wanted the kids to be great problem solvers, future leaders or visionaries.
The first time when I started conducting workshops for kids I discovered that they love to speak more then I wanted them too. They are very expressive about their opinions and had fancy imaginations of how things around them could evolve. Kids would open up and express like launching rockets in space was as easy as learning A for apple.
To develop a better understanding of creativity we performed an activity where the kids wrote words they can relate to creativity on paper plates to eventually discover that it is not magic but a process
Some interesting words that came up from this activity were
Creative, Design, Idea, Innovate, Expressive, Cute, Simple, Science, Automatic, Thinker, Cool, Colorful, Craft, Art, Brainy, Imagine, Robots, Elegant, Apple, Create, Make, Magic, Unique, Enthusiasm
The excitement and energy levels of the kids participating is simply brilliant. They are aware about various problems around them and had unique ways of solving them. Creativity and Innovation were now used to drive the design thinking process
Through the 4 step process I wanted the kids to box an experience which could help them in creative problem solving. Designed for the way kids love to learn by playing driven by curiosity the kids began to experience the process:
Observe: This phase is all about framing a design challenge and discovering new perspectives on the opportunities. By watching what people do and how they interact with their environment gives you clues about what they think and feel. It helps you to learn about what they need. The kids navigated around the space to study the problems and used kiddle (google for kids) to search data, facts about the different topics selected. Using post-it notes they were generating a structured database of knowledge to be used during the next phases of designing.
Ideate: This one is about generating ideas and making them tangible. Imagine new ideas and create new solutions for the problems you want to solve. Using the brainstorming maps created above think of solutions as a team to resolve the problem
Make: In the make phase, the kids bring about their solutions live and take user feedback for the same. Transform your ideas into a physical form so that you can experience and interact with them and, in the process, learn about the user and develop more empathy. Building prototypes means making ideas tangible, learning while building them and sharing them with other people. Prototype reveals what you don’t know and continue that iterative process of figuring out, working on it and evolving.
Refine: This phase is all about getting feedback from the user you are designing for and keep refining the idea till it seems tangible. Share what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for and see what they think. Let the feedback of the people you’re designing for guide the next iteration of your solution. The kids went about interviewing the people around and many experts reviewed their projects to give them feedback and advice to improvised the projects built
The experience of the conducting the workshops on design thinking for kids is fascinating and mesmerizing for me as a designer. Going through the design process with the kids remind me that there are many ways to find solutions to problems, and I wish that they ain’t forced to grow up being rigid but maintain this creative problem solving, curiosity and expressive attitude towards learning. While we were forced to grow up and draw lines that there is only one answer to every question which surely dampens the creative side of individuals. Design thinking gives permission to be creative to think to be playful again so rather than relearning …it is best to preserve the talent of the little design champions.