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School-wide design thinking workshop ignites creativity on orientation day

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Creativity and teamwork came first this year for LLA students, who opened the fall semester by participating in a hands-on “Design Day” workshop focused on creative solutions to common barriers teens face in their quest for success.

By Justin Warren

 

Creativity and teamwork came first this year for LLA students, who opened the fall semester by participating in a hands-on “Design Day” workshop focused on creative solutions to common barriers teens face in their quest for success.

Teams of five students and one facilitator identified real-world student challenges, and devised imaginative prototypes to address the need.

“We made a Motivation Station,” said returning student Karla Ceja, describing a device that allows students to earn rewards points for strong attendance and performance at school. The gadget was designed to “make students feel appreciated for their work, for their effort they’re putting in,” Ceja said. “It was really cool. I really liked how it came out.”

 

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The five-hour creative workshop broke the ice between new and returning students, and allowed teachers to get to know students in an experimental setting that familiarized everyone with the design thinking methodology via project-based learning.

“Now we just talk more. Now it’s not really awkward,” Ceja explained, of a relationship that strengthened during Design Day.

LLA’s Biology and Ecology teacher Karuna Holm agreed that Design Day helped build new connections. Holm facilitated one team’s design experience.

“It was fun for them” Holm said, “it kind of set them up for having fun, playing with materials, getting to get creative with each other, and taking some risks with each other, but in a low-stress, low-stakes environment.”

They teams used the design thinking methodology to generate empathy, create ideas, build prototypes, and share their solution ideas with their peers. Their solutions to teen problems — safety, drugs, community unity, staying in school — were remarkably inventive.

“What I love about design thinking is that it’s a process that scales to any challenge, and puts the creative solutions in the hands of the students,” said Justin Warren, LLA’s Strategic Initiatives Director and designer of the activity.

“I find that if students take charge of the process from the beginning, then they take ownership over the solutions, they apply some really inventive thinking, and they stay engaged,” said Mr. Warren, who drew from curriculum resources created by TD4Ed and Ideo, and from his own experience co-creating Zoo Labs (an Oakland music/tech incubator) in crafting the workshop.

At the end of the day, each design team presented their prototype and methodology to their peers and teachers, and fielded questions about their approach and solutions.

Holm found the presentations were a challenging but meaningful way to share, because they require new students to “participating equally with returning students from the very beginning.”

As an educator, her own challenge was embracing the unknown. “I was a little nervous going into it because I hadn’t done anything like that before,” but she embraced the goal “for students to bond, and staff to bond with students,” and that, she said, “made it fun.”

 

Watch selected presentations

 

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