Design thinking in children starts with empathy
Outside the home, the process of design thinking must begin as early as kindergarten, encouraging children to question and find solutions to their everyday problems.
By Revathi Srinivasan
Design thinking is an approach to better learning by helping children, parents and faculty to understand the why’s and how’s of things, leading to deeper learning and research. Design thinking cannot be taught as a silo-based subject in schools but needs careful planning for integration into their everyday lives and their curriculum.
What is important for children today is to develop a right approach to learning so that they can think and conceive ideas, research and analyse and solve real world problems. The design thinking process may seem a bit overwhelming initially but it usually begins at home. Parents should be aware that design thinking starts with empathy and usually opens up newer ways for their children and for them as well to explore a situation in a way they might have not thought about and with a hint of human touch.
Outside the home, the process of design thinking must begin as early as kindergarten, encouraging children to question and find solutions to their everyday problems. This will help children think independently and find creative solutions. This will lead to ‘un-boxing of ideas’ and looking at problems in a different way.
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These design thinking projects can begin from the elementary classrooms where presentations should be made using minimum resources. Children come out with various ways of presenting their work. This is the beginning of design thinking. As they enter the elementary school, children will learn to collaborate and engage in a fruitful discussion collectively to come up with a solution. In the classroom, children can help to resolve issues within the home room and within a school system. These deliberations will help build stronger bonds among children, engaging on one-to-one basis leading to greater empathy and mutual respect.
We tried testing our students and their design thinking capabilities by conducting an experiment with eight-year-olds. The project was to find solutions to the traffic problem outside school during busy morning hours. Students came up with a big project on “Car Pool”. They encouraged senior students to cycle to school or walk or car-pool to school. What’s surprising is that these children impacted 28 per cent of the parent community to carpool to drop their wards to school. Another contribution of students of the middle school was ‘Managing Waste’.
Schools play an integral role in integrating design thinking in a child’s behaviour. To enable design thinking in schools, it is important to train teachers to help children widen their perspectives. Teachers must have open discussions and must listen to children’s voices. Different tools need to be employed to get every child to open–up. Brain storming, feedbacks, debates must happen in class rooms only then will there be creativity, innovation, communication, problem-solving and collaboration which are the skills needed for this century.
Design thinking holds a lot of importance and is a critical skill for future. Design thinking can transform and enhance your child’s creativity in more ways than one. It is a powerful tool for innovation and finding solutions and it’s definitely worth considering at a formative stage of your child. Parents should foster and nurture design thinking in their children at a very early age by making sure they attend workshops and urge them to come up with creative solutions to global problems.
Design thinking helps builds a growth mindset, develops resilience and entrepreneurial skills that prepares students to face the real world.
(The writer is Director – Education and Principal, Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School, Thane.)
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