How to Build a Foundation with Design Thinking

September 15, 2016

Rapid Design Thinking Challenge:
Build a Foundation

When you listen to students in between classes, you start to hear how they frame learning:

“Did you do all the work last night?”
“I think I did the math wrong.”
“I think I am totally lost.”
“I can’t figure out what the teacher wants.”

And when you listen to teachers in between classes, you hear how they frame learning:

“I found how they approached that problem really ingenious.”
“That discussion engaged their connection to the story.”
“They worked really well together to solve that challenge.”
“They had great questions about the homework.”

The gap between intention and perception is expected—the teenage brain and the adult brain don’t sync up— and the gap invites dialog and reflection about not just what we teach, but also how we teach. Gould’s commitment to the IDEAS Center is a great facility upgrade, and a strong indicator that we are exploring new paradigms of teaching and learning. Enter design thinking as a foundational approach for the 9th grade seminar.

Enter design thinking

We challenged six groups of six students to design a foundation for the new Gould ninth graders that extends beyond schedules and planners to all the elements of a successful year. With the time clock on, 16 faculty guided the students in a rapid design sprint—encouraging participation and transparency in exploring what their needs are.

Design Thinking White Board Brainstorming

Brainstorming on the white boards in the IDEAS Center


Brainstorms turned into design drivers that turned into sketches of prototypes, which were turned into realities with concept statements.

Design thinking intentionally challenges idea development with time constraints and creativity with how materials are used. And minds love it! Creativity gets unlocked, imagination fires up, and possibilities discovered. All the type of ignitions switches we want to go off in all classrooms.

Here is the concept statement and prototype from a group:


“The general concept of our foundation is to show the area of Bethel. We have a river representing the Androscoggin, and the water we need to drink. We have the trees with eyes to represent our safety. We have mountains to represent our mountainous area. We have Bethel itself and the dorms and homes of our community. Our learning materials and a table with silverware show we all have equality in resources. And the plane proves that Gould lets our ideas fly.”


Design Thinking Prototypes

Ideas turn to prototypes during the Design Thinking process.


And the plane proves that Gould lets our ideas fly

Design thinking invites collaboration and creativity where students and teachers leave saying, “That was fun! I feel that way too.”

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