Friday, February 24, 2017

Design Thinking and Novel Engineering in 5th Grade

I have been working in a 5th grade classroom for the last month. The co-teachers asked me to help them with fresh ideas to make their science block better. My mind immediately went to Novel Engineering. You can read the official definition on the website. I describe it as - a process where students design or engineer a realistic solution to a problem that a character is having in a piece of non-fiction literature. Some books lend themselves to this challenge better than others. The website has a list of elementary and middle school books. I'm sure that you can come up with others. We chose the picture book the Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats



As a framework for the students designing a solution we decided to use the LAUNCH Cycle. The LAUNCH Book is written by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer. It gives the teacher and students a simple language to follow using design thinking. 

I read the book to the class two times. The first time I asked them to just listen and enjoy the book. The second time I asked them to close read the book through the lens of trying to discover the Peter's problem or problems in the book. This was L - Look, Listen and Learn.
Next I asked the students to list the problems that Peter had in the story. They came up with three. 
1. Peter wanted to keep his snowball, but it melted in his pocket.
2. Peter was not able to play with the big boys in the neighborhood.
3. Snow fell on Peter's head when he hit the tree with a stick. 

Next we defined the word prototype. I told the class that they were going to design something to solve Peter's problem. They had lots of questions about the parameters of their designs. I told them that we would like something that actually works. They asked about designs that had computers or motors in them. I told them those kinds of things were ok. Their design had to have a basis in fact. One student talked about a force field. I told him that was not realistic.

I asked them to identify one problem they would like to help Peter solve and write or draw some initial thoughts in Notability. I also told them that through out the whole process we would continue to ask the question, "How can we make this better?"

The next time we met I had them do some research. I gave them some links to information on refrigeration, insulation, and how snow is formed in the atmosphere, to get them started and give them some background knowledge. Next they had to look on the Internet to see if their item already existed. If it already existed then they had to improve the existing item.
At this point we met as in small groups to share our ideas. The purpose was two fold here. The first was so that I could see where they were in the process. The other was so that they could receive positive feedback from their peers regarding their solution. Before we broke out into small groups I shared my ideas with students in order to model what I was looking for. 


The calendar said it was time for Winter Break, which was perfect timing. Students had two weeks over break to create the prototype of their solution to Peter's problem. Here is a video showing my prototype. I used Koma Koma, a free stop motion iOS app. 





I had students work on H, highlight and fix, while they were building their prototype. I explained that their design might changed based on a number of factors, available materials. I asked students to write a 1 paragraph reflection on their prototype building process when we returned from Winter Break. 
The final part of the process is to share the final product with a wider audience. The students came up with two suggestions a Google Site, and a You Tube Channel. I also suggested a Padlet Wall. I put up a poll on our Schoology wall and let students vote. The overwhelming choice was a You Tube Channel. Here is the link to the 5CL You Tube Channel. Please enjoy our videos of our solutions.  

If you are interested in the LAUNCH book the District 100 Blogger PD crew did a book study. You can find links to all the blog posts here. You can follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #D100BloggerPD. 



ADE Megan Ryder sketchnoted the book. You can find her sketches at  @MrsRyder58 on Twitter. Here is her sketchnote for Chapter 4 the chapter that I covered for the book study. Thanks Megan!