21st Century Skills:
This year the Adventure Room group kicked off the year with a design challenge: building a hand-held labyrinth! One of the reasons for this design challenge was to provide students with an opportunity to explore and use the Design Thinking Toolkit.
Students started by making observations, a key step in our process, as it sparked student excitement and invited critical thinking about how labyrinths are designed. Then students generated questions such as, "Are we limited on materials? Who is our audience? Is there a time limit? What Toolkits can we use?" Later students defined constraints and requirements, and started brainstorming their ideas. Students were limited in their materials for their first iteration (cardboard and hot glue) to require more focus on the design itself. Once the brainstorming was finished, students got to work building!
Collaboration was another major goal. During a design challenge students must practice sharing and listening to ideas, identifying and taking on roles, communicating clearly and kindly, compromising, and solving problems with their partner. Sometimes working together was more challenging than others, such as deciding what base shape to use or where they would place the walls. For other groups, the building was more challenging because they had a difficult time assigning and identifying roles. Throughout the process, the students' collaboration improved as they were able to communicate more clearly and take on roles more naturally to complete the challenge.
A third important focus for us was iteration. In traditional school settings, students are typically asked to do an activity or project once. They then receive a grade, and are expected to move on. However, here at Sycamore we allow students to revisit their work in order to learn from mistakes, embrace failure and consider feedback. In this way, students are able to practice and improve not only their designs, but also their process and collaboration skills.
For this challenge students made three labyrinths in total. The one difference in each iteration, after the first, was that students were able to use other materials, as long as they could persuade an educator that the material had a purpose in their design. Students shared that, through the process of iteration, they had an opportunity to try out different ideas and try to change the things that didn't work. It also gave students many opportunities to be reflective.
In between work times, students played each others' games and wrote constructive feedback. Before the final iteration, students also received feedback from an educator. The kids came up with their own feedback questions, based on things they thought would be helpful to know to make their design better. They came up with questions such as, "Do you like it? Is it fun? How can we make it more fun? Is it challenging? How can we make it look better?" After playing each others' game, students offered feedback such as, "I love it! It's so fun, but I would make it a bit more challenging by adding more walls." Another student shared, "I liked how you had pipes...I think you should make it easier to get the marble into the pipes."
When they finished, students expressed that they loved building the labyrinths. They explained that not only was it fun, they were able to learn some valuable skills in the process. One student shared that this challenge required him to be adaptable and collaborate well with his partner. Other students enjoyed discovering what didn't worked, and embraced their failures in order to learn how to make it better. Finally for the best part! Students invited the rest of the students in the school to come and play!