Last summer I looked at my boss and said, “We have to get it together for SXSWEDU! I think we should pitch Design Thinking with Puppets.” Neither one of us knew what that meant at the time, but we had 9 months to figure it out.

If you don't know Design Thinking you should know more than I will tell you here, check THIS POST by Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic.

If you do know design thinking, please indulge my oversimplification. As I get it, design thinking is a design process that puts the user at the center of the process. Design thinking responds to the needs and feedback of the user.

In class, there are many ways to get kids thinking inside the Design Thinking model. For my youngest students having a user helps them get great ideas because they can check in with what they know about the user to get more information. The fun thing I learned is this works really well, even when the user is imaginary.

Design Thinking with Puppets

Design Thinking with Puppets is a user simulation tool. The teachers I work with develop a set of user profiles and we present them in puppet form. The puppets bring the needs and personality of the users to life in the imagination of the kids. They are able to make many decisions about what they are building and designing and stay tuned into the needs of that user.  Check out this communication challenge:

These videos are a great foundation for a discussion of the needs of each user. After all the users have been discussed I ask the kids to commit to a user and get to work. In the process of listing what the users need and what they said we will often rewatch the video. THIS IS A SKILL, HOW TO LEARN FROM A VIDEO. We model it with them, we guide them, we also learn the videos where they can find them, we make them available for rewatching.

By the time we got to the end of the school year I had DTWP challenges for House Building (1st grade) Car Design (preK-6th grade) Communication (K-2 NGSS) Design thinking in response to Muncha Muncha Muncha (Prek-1) and Stomp Rockets (3rd NGSS). They are all on this epic playlist:

You too can make videos with your students!

Most of these videos were made with my phone and Camtasia. You can use these videos for your class of make your own. I would love to see what your kids are inspired to make, so show your work!


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