Citizens of the future will need to create and invent solutions to human problems using technology. Design thinking (see illustration below) is a variation of the well known engineering design process.
A key piece of this is empathy, the ability to deeply understand human needs and to include the intended user in all phases of the design process. Empathy helps students successfully define the problem to be solved. Students will work in teams, which develops collaboration skills needed in today’s workforce. Students must be creative and flexible to respond successfully to the problem they are solving to ideate possible solutions. They must also persist and adapt when initial concepts and prototypes have issues. Students will understand there are many different possible solutions to any given problem. Students must think critically to successfully test and improve their design prototypes.
Toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners are natural engineers and designers. They love sand castles, blocks, fairy houses, and other projects that support their creative, fantasy play. We support this natural engineering instinct in preschool and kindergarten classrooms with blocks, LEGOs, sand and water tables, and other activities. As students reach first grade and beyond, we remove all these activities from school. Yet we still expect them be interested in engineering when they get to high school and college. Our goal is to support students’ natural engineering design interests all through their K-12 education here at the Pioneer Valley Regional School District.