As we provide design thinking opportunities out to students, I’m wondering how we capitalize on the empathy when the prototyping and feedback cycle ends.
For example, the plight of the homeless has been a theme for a few classes of students throughout the district. Students watched an edited version of Tony the Movie, which follows Tony, a San Diego man who is trying to reverse his homelessness situation. After the movie, students had the unique opportunity of meeting both Tony and the movie’s director. They asked some important questions of Tony about how he access resources, what he most needs, and how being homeless feels.
Students have responded to the experience in different ways. At one school, 4th grade students developed a needs statement around Tony needing to stay connected so as to access resources, and therefore, a way to keep his cell phone charged was critical. At another school site, 6th grade students are building tiny home prototypes for people in need, to include homeless, wounded veterans, and others.
In both scenarios, the prototype will resemble a makerspace project – cardboard, glue, pipe cleaners, etc. The feedback loop will involve discussions around how well the prototype fit the needs statement, and did the elevator pitch clearly convey both the need and the method of addressing it.
But then what?
What about the students who truly connected with Tony and the struggles of homelessness? Their prototypes are not being manufactured, so what CAN they do? Do we just say, “Thanks for the great project” and then move on to our next Common Core standards-aligned lesson?
How can we bring that empathy to life and move it from a cardboard prototype to an opportunity for advocacy?
Some advocacy ideas I’ve been tossing around for students*:
- Write your local politicians, explaining the project and what was learned, followed by a request for call to action. (In this case, perhaps students could ask for safe places for people to sit and let their phones charge.)
- Share your learning and needs statement with three adults and ask them ways in which to get involved, or better yet, tell them how to get involved.
- Create a public outreach campaign for Open House night.
- Fundraise for a local charity that supports the cause learned about.
*Our students are K-6 so the list should differ for older students.
Including an advocacy option for students keeps the empathy focus of design thinking in front. It helps students see how ideas can become action, and how voice can create change.
So what else could we add to the list? How are you supporting students to become advocates for change?