It’s a familiar problem. You’ve been eyeing up that cute blouse online for a while now, but you can’t decide whether or not to click ‘buy’. You’ve reached the checkout page a couple of times, but you just can’t seem to commit. What if that shade of green makes you look like a humanoid iguana? Will those sleeves make your shoulder blades look like giant wings sawn off at the nub?

Third grader Shayla came up with a solution: she devised a site that creates a personal avatar customized to body shape and size, so you can try clothes on virtually before buying. Unfortunately for Shayla, she discovered that her inspired problem solving had already been capitalized upon by Microsoft. But as Shayla’s teacher observes, it just goes to show that there’s no age restriction on good ideas.

What is Design Thinking?

Shayla’s website idea is a wonderful example of design thinking: she took a problem, broke it down and creatively worked out how to solve it. This is exactly the kind of thinking we need to help kids develop in the modern age.

Take a moment and think of all the problems we face in the world today: recession, an obesity epidemic, dwindling oil resources, global warming…the list is endless. Of course, we want to protect our kids from such grim realities for as long as we can, but we also want them to be future leaders who have the critical thinking skills to tackle these problems.

Design, according to Dave Cronin, is about “ imagining a better future and working out how to achieve it.”

Design the future, re-design the present

As Shayla’s design shows, kids have an innate, unfettered creativity when it comes to solving problems, and this is something we need to nurture in our schools. Taking familiar, everyday problems as class challenges keeps their brains ticking over and primed for inventive problem solving. Take a look at the K12 Lab at Stanford University Design School for inspiration.

Research by the MacArthur Foundation suggests that a staggering 65 per cent of future jobs haven’t even been invented yet. Given that we really don’t know what the future holds for kids, one of the best ways of preparing them now is to support them in developing the critical thinking and problem solving skills they need to navigate the unknown. By giving kids space to redesign the present, we are giving them the tools to design their future.

What common problems can kids tackle using design thinking in the classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments.

By Deirdre Kilbride

P.S. Teachers use Fishtree to plan lessons, find standard-aligned teaching resources, create assessments and see students performance, all in one place! If you’re a teacher, use Fishtree to prepare for your class and understand how well each student is learning. What’s more, it’s safe, secure, collaborative and easy! Try the next generation learning platform or contact us for a demo.

Image credits: DNA Origami By Alex Bateman (Duncan Hull) / CC BY 2.0