This past Monday, 14 of our MVB students were invited to attend a multi-school Maker Day held at Grindrod. Leslie Drinovz (SD 83s Gifted and Inclusion teacher) and Jessa Clark (a member of the district’s Instructional Leadership Team) organized the opportunity for students from ALF, Grindrod and MVB. The students arrived – most without a clue of what the day would entail – and quickly found out that they would be put into multi-age teams with members from at least two different schools.
A challenge was presented: “Your team has been tasked by a company that mines diamonds to move large amounts of kimberlite to a place where it will be processed and the valuable diamonds will be extracted.” The teams were also told that the company had a robot that would help them move the bulky material. The students would need to create some type of container that the robot would be able to move successfully from one place to another.
It was stated that the mining company would be looking for the most efficient (fastest) way to safely move this valuable cargo. In other words, at the end of the experience there would be a race…and a winner.
So, imagine yourself in this position. You have just met three people, together you have listened to the challenge, then with a limited amount of time you must discuss plans and agree on a structure, build a prototype and then test it. Oh, by the way, you will also have to learn how to code the robots movements so that it doesn’t veer outside the lines and disqualify your team. What if you have someone in your group who does all the talking? What if your idea isn’t chosen? What if your structure fails? Will people argue? How will you deal with differences of opinion? Many of these scenarios are likely to play out.
How is that for a morning of learning?
The conversations I overhear are also a big reason why I love Design Thinking activities. Here are just a sample: “How can we make it faster?” “What can we do to reduce the friction?” “Do you think…?” “I wonder if…?” “Is it good enough?” “If we angle it to cut corners, do you think we can make it faster?”
These types of questions show students immersed in a deeper level of thinking as they attempt to problem solve. Of equal importance is the creation of prototypes: students learn quickly that multiple “failures” are typical before they achieve success. As they learn to adapt and modify their designs, they are actually learning the importance of perseverance – an essential lifeskill for everyone.
Thanks to Leslie and Jessa for leading this opportunity – and to Grindrod for hosting!