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Artefact Junior: Teaching Creative Problem Solving Skills to Kids

With all our kids out of school for Martin Luther King Jr. day, the parents of Artefact brought their little ones to the office for our first ever Artefact Junior design boot camp. Seven kids between the ages of six and 10 showed up and I ran them through a two-hour workshop where we dug into the design process.

I  ran the workshop as democratically and peer progressively as possible. First, I had the kids list out the things that annoyed them most at home and at school and vote on the problems they wanted to solve most. Then they broke up into teams and brainstormed ideas based on which ideas they voted for. They practiced giving feedback in the d.school “I like, I wish, what if” method and they iterated on their sketches. After that, they voted again on which individual ideas they wanted to take to the prototype phase. We used Model Magic to make prototypes of their ideas and when they were ready for their “pitches,” I used iMovie and my iPhone to capture their ideas. By the end of the class (and a box of cookies later) we had a video ready to present back to their parents.

Why teach design thinking skills to kids?

I believe that teaching kids creative problem-solving techniques is critical to forming the next generation of workers that are able to solve the exponential level of complexity we face. In fact, this is a major trend in education and we’re seeing higher education institutions like Stanford  and local education innovators like Leading is Learning experiment with these models. In addition, The American National Council of English Teachers adopted a new standard for what literacies our children need in the 21st century. Here is the excerpt from the site:

Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to

    1. Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
    2. Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
    3. Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
    4. Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
    5. Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
    6. Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.