Design Thinking 1 – Empathize

As we have uncovered more about play we thought it was time for the children to have an opportunity to demonstrate their learning in a hands-on way. Enter ‘Design Thinking’ and ‘Maker Time’. You get your ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between innovators and other people is we notice when we’re doing it!

If you missed a previous article or need helping getting to another part of the Design Thinking series, please use the following table of contents:

Stage 1: EMPATHIZEStage 2: DEFINEStage 3: IDEATEStage 4: PROTOTYPEStage 5: TEST
Work to fully understand the experience of the user for whom you are designing. Do this through observation, interaction, and immersing yourself in their experiences.
Process and synthesize the findings from your empathy work in order to form a user point of view that you will address with your design.
Explore a wide variety of possible solutions through generating a large quantity of diverse possible solutions, allowing you to step beyond the obvious and explore a range of ideas.
Transform your ideas into a physical form so that you can experience and interact with them and, in the process, learn and develop more empathy.
Share your prototyped idea with your original use for feedback. What worked? What could be improved?
Two new trends in education which encourage children to be problem solvers, innovators and creators.
Below is a collection of helpful articles and media to help you learn more about the Design Thinking process. Click the title to learn more about each. I encourage you all to spend the time to read and become familiar with this tool.

Design Thinking is a process that we tackle in our classroom, and something that students will be able to take with them throughout their lives.

Design Thinking For Educators
Thinking with Elementary Students (1st Grade)
Pittsburgh Innovators Connect Nationally with Maker Corps

Design Thinking – Stage 1


In the meantime we will share how it has been implemented in our classroom during this inquiry. There are 5 Stages in the Design Thinking process and we plan to work our way through each step during the last 2 weeks of our unit.

Design Thinking Steps

Design Thinking Steps

To start with we needed a problem to solve – ‘Kids need more to play with at Magic Years – can you create something for them to play with?

After identifying this problem we were able to begin the process, starting with ‘Empathize’. In this stage the children had to think about all the other students in the school and what they like to play with. They were split into groups of four and worked together to draw their responses.

What We Like To Play With

At first, the children found it hard to think beyond their own interests, however, with encouragement began to generate ideas that reflected all children at MYIS. After this group work, we came together as a class and shared our different ideas, here is what we came up with:

  • Soccer
  • Dolls, in the sand, dress ups
  • Play-Doh, swimming, blocks, maze, shark toys
  • Trains and Snakes and Ladders
  • Princess, bunny house, castles, microphones, wands, bingo
  • Barbies, castles, clothes and football

We then discussed the different things in our list and could see that our ideas were either a toy or game. The children now had a better understanding of what students like playing with at MYIS and learnt from their peers ideas. This ‘Empathise’ stage helped the children identify and think about other students’ interests, building a platform for the brainstorming and creation stages to come. In our next post, we will share what the children explored in the ‘Define’ stage.

What do you think about our ideas in stage 1? Did we miss anything?

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