Design Thinking: To Serve Is to Win!
By Shaun LaRose, Director of Fine Arts & Upper School Art Teacher
This year CCS had two students compete in the regional high school design thinking competition. Seniors Zoe Shields and Claire Mitchell submitted a proposal for developing space that fostered immersive learning for high school students through community business partnerships. They placed 1st in overall best design, most innovative design, and best community and business engagement. These students astounded all of us by winning 3 of the 4 juried awards!
“Design thinking” is a term coined by the design company IDEO to describe a process of user-oriented research, collaborative, multi-disciplinary problem solving and prototyping for a target audience through a relational process that drives the final designs to fit the greatest point of need by the particular users. In design thinking this process is referred to as “Challenge,” “Inspiration,” “Ideate,” and “Prototype.”
Students in CCS art classes have been exploring design thinking through Bright Spark, an educational application for design thinking of the local organization Bridge Innovate. In 2014 our 7th grade art class worked with Bridge Innovate to test the use of design thinking, developing a design for the lobby of our Middle School. The following year we tested this process of empathy-based design in an Art and Culture class to create a new design which would activate the Fine Arts Gallery for greater student use. The fruits of that design were realized this year as CCS purchased a new set of cafe tables and chairs based on those prototypes and opened up the space for student use throughout the school day. Following this successful application to the classroom, Bright Spark initiated a regional design competition for area middle schools around redesigning the East Lake Park. Our Middle School team placed 1st for best overall design, and the forthcoming park renovations will use aspects of our Middle School design to update the park as a space for learning while you play.
Following the recent success of our design team I have been asking myself, “Why do our students continue to win these competitions?” Thus far we don’t have courses specific to this kind of design. So why are they successful in a regional competition that demands high-level, empathy-based thinking as applied to problem solving? After considering these things I would suggest that their success has a strong connection to the fact that they have been immersed in both church and school communities dedicated to serving the needs of others. Service is woven into every aspect of their school curriculum. They have been practicing empathetic thinking through projects like CCS’s Community Service program, which puts students in the shoes of others. I believe this is the foundation of the empathy-based reasoning that shows up in these students’ achievements. They’ve asked key questions that drive powerful ideas. Whom are we serving? What would we want if we were being served?
Culture yearns for new ways to solve problems and it seems to me that the most powerful solutions are inescapable from the Gospel. He came not to be served but to serve. Perhaps it is the Gospel itself that informs these students’ approach to problem solving. Perhaps this is why their approach is so compelling.