Sunday, March 17, 2013


Now for something completely different!

Yes, it has been quite a while. I have been reading a lot and inventing a lot.

My latest idea is not an old one or one that other teachers haven't done yet, I also have done models before, but I have never done one with Design Thinking in mind.

A while ago I wrote about iTravel and we end iTravel activities by "returning" to New York. 

and when returning to New York (this year) we will build STEP BY STEP a model (last year we had a cooking show for this Unit)

So, we will move from a global view to a local one.

In Model City, the children discuss the elements of a city (roads, buildings of various types, etc.). They each choose an element that they will make (a crafts activity), and then we build a model city. In building the model city we discuss whether the relationship between the various elements makes sense, and the children can move the elements around until they arrive at a configuration that works. While doing this, we discuss the notion of process (Step by Step is one of our Interdisciplinary units). More broadly, this activity also helps us to practice "design thinking", where we use what we know about the world to come up with solutions, and in the process we identify things we don't know yet (and need to learn about!)


As I read about Design Thinking, I realize that the process of coming up with this activity did follow the Design Thinking process:
- Discovery: I have a challenge
- Interpretation: What does this challenge tell me?
- Ideation: What can I create that might address this challenge?
- Experimentation: Try it and see!
- Evolution: It doesn't always work perfectly right away - iterate and improve, based on feedback from the children and parents, and our own observations.

The first thing we did last week was to decide where the streets would go, and how big the Model City blocks would be, then each child chose a "building". Once they had their buildings, each child traced its base on their own Styrofoam block, and thought about what they would put on the surrounding part of the block (grass, gravel, etc.). Then we glued our buildings in their designated spaces and painted them white. Next, we started a discussion on what our buildings were going to be - shops, apartments, offices, hotels, hospitals, etc., and why, and what kind of things each of these buildings would have and need, e.g., parking. (We will relate this to the neighborhood walk and eventually connect it to our last Interdisciplinary unit: Where Are We.) 

Each child has its own styrofoam block (18 in total), they are all numbered because they must be put together in a certain way. Every class starts with a discussion, with the challenge, we brainstorm, then the child works on their block alone as they are doing the basics. later they need to work with the friend that has a block next to theirs and sort out their common spaces. This model making is about collaboration, brainstorming, overcoming challenges and finding solutions and above all observing the world around us. one of the pre assignments I gave the students was to do a neighborhood walk so when they start looking at the details they can look at the pictures they took and see if their city has what needs.

And yes, we have a long way to go and the discussions are fantastic!
Because in this process the important part (as in most) is the journey not the arrival.