What is Design Thinking?
Design, in its most common use, is understood to describe an object or an end result. Design Thinking, on the other hand, is an action. It is a protocol or process used for solving problems, discovering insights and effectively capitalizing on new opportunities.
Through design thinking, students acquire skills like research, organization, empathy, creative thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, public speaking and presentation techniques in a hands-on manner. They work on a socially relevant topic and get the chance to build a solution for it. In an information-packed, technologically driven society, design thinking skills build confident, creative young leaders that are capable of achieving success in a climate of change.
Why is Design Thinking a part of the CMRNPS curriculum?
Through inquiry-based curriculum, schools around the world are already using design thinking in classrooms and empowering students with skills to solve real-world challenges. They work with multiple perspectives, learn to access and make sense of information, apply critical thinking and intuition, iteratively learn from failure and create solutions that integrate the emotional and the analytical.
Design thinking isn’t new to the CMR fold. The first challenge was piloted at Ekya School ITPL. The objective of the challenge was to find solutions to the garbage crisis that plagued Bangalore and its citizens at the time.
With 4 years of teaching at CMR NPS and having moved to developing curriculum thereafter, Ms. Shobha, now Senior Curriculum Developer at Ekya Schools, has been part of the design thinking team since its infancy. Speaking about how the concept of human-centred design intrigued her in the beginning, Ms. Shobha recalls, “As a curriculum developer, I have spent a lot of time researching and integrating processes focused on Inquiry-based learning and STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering and Mathematics) into the Primary Science curriculum. My introduction to Design Thinking was by participating in a ‘wallet challenge’. The exercise helped me understand the role of design thinking as a creative problem-solving tool and how it can help students solve real-world problems.”
At the Ekya ITPL Design Thinking Challenge, Ms. Shobha noticed how students and teachers made use of the design toolkit to come up with umpteen solutions to a variety of problems. “My belief in the idea of design thinking was strengthened when we conducted our first design challenge. Our students set up campaigns to educate citizens, designed special clothing for garbage pickers and planned effective distribution of excess food and unique waste disposal methods.”
After a successful pilot, the design thinking challenge came to Ekya School JP Nagar. The school’s students were tasked to find ways to integrate the elderly better into the society. “Through the challenge, our children developed empathy for the elderly. They really understood how the user was key to the design thinking process and kept the elderly in mind while designing solutions. Students thought of ways to get rid of loneliness that older people are likely to face, planned virtual reality tours for those who could not travel much and devised applications and instruments that helped with mobility, health, and lifestyles.”
Adding to the culture and overall school experience for students, Ms. Shobha believes that participating in a such a challenge engages them in meaningful practices and contributes to lifelong learning. “Collaboration is key; students build on each other’s ideas and conduct their research through observation and close interactions with their users. They pick up skills and life lessons in the process”, she says.
These tools not only helped teachers and students with the challenge at hand but also with their everyday list of things to do. Talking about how the use of design thinking tools stood out, Ms. Shobha highlights that the process matters as much as the end product – “Everything on the toolkit can be effectively used in real-life scenarios. I was able to build and integrate some of these design principles into the Primary Science Curriculum that I was working on”
With the design thinking challenge, it is not just the destination, it is the journey that counts. It focuses on a student’s ability to come up with solutions and pays equal importance to how you come up with these solutions. This is one of the reasons students are asked to save all their work and not focus on how pretty their model or submission looks.
Through the process, students brainstorm, categorize, organize information, conduct research and interviews, ideate and make prototypes which gives them a sense of ownership and they are proud to put it up for others to see. Students use feedback from peers constructively and it helps them look at their solutions critically; in turn, they learn to take criticism in a positive manner. This helps build confidence in students and helps them see others point of view as well”, Ms. Shobha adds.
This year, as part of ‘CMR For a Better Bangalore’, CMR National Public School will be taking the idea of design thinking a step further and work hands-on on this year’s challenge. The objective of this challenge is to help the differently abled participate actively in our society. Building sensitivity for the issues that differently abled individuals face in Bengaluru, our students will bring with them independent thoughts on how to create change in the society and new friendships with the individuals that they interact with. Laying the foundation for ‘The Makery’, the school’s very own Makerspace, this challenge will be the perfect way to introduce students to the concept of Design Thinking.