Design challenge: Students “imagine” and “plan” with us through the design cycle

We’ve walked through the first two steps of the design process, defining and researching the problem. Today, we’re back to talk about the next few steps of the process—imagining and planning the solution of the problem. These stages are the most exciting parts of the design process, but they can also be the most difficult. To help us understand these stages, we reached out to two schools who participated in last year’s design challenge.

First, let’s talk about the imagine stage of the process. This is an ideation phase, where as many solutions as possible should be generated. This is not the time to be overly critical of solutions; instead, keep the focus on coming up with ideas.

We talked with Jenni Domo, Director of SCOPES Academy, about the ideation process her students used for last year’s Ohio Heart Health Design Challenge. She brought 1st– 5th grade students together to create a package of solutions including a Heart Health Healthy Summer Calendar with fun facts, an exercise program and an informational video. She said, “there was a huge list of solutions per grade level. Then, the students had to narrow down the possible solutions.”

You can get your students in the habit of generating ideas for the design challenge by modeling brainstorming techniques during other classroom activities. Students need practice at originating many ideas without judgment. Often in brainstorming sessions, the most obvious answers surface first. If you can keep the discussion going, you’ll really start to see magic happen.

Imagining all the possible solutions is just one step in the solution process. Next, students need to select the solution they will use for their design challenge. This is the planning stage, where the list of solutions is narrowed down. Students will need to consider the pros and cons of each possible solution and design challenge constraints. These limiting factors will help students select the most promising solution and begin to delve into that.

Winchester Trail Elementary School teacher Leigh Ann Hewitt asked her students to share their observations from the planning stage. Student Lily A. Kissinger said: “We were given a driving question, ‘How can we as landscape designers, design a park in Canal Winchester that promotes heart health?’ We brainstormed ways to make a traditional park a heart healthy park.”

One student went another step further designing a 5K trail within the park. Kennedy Mignogno explained “On the 5k trail there are signs to inform people of cardiovascular disease and how to prevent it. We wanted to design something that would educate people on cardiovascular disease and my group agreed that this would not only inform people but also help them on healthy choices.”

Solutions change throughout the process, according to Malik James Dollery of Winchester Trail. He told us about how his solution continued to transform as the group worked: “We wanted to educate people on heart health using signs in the park. At first, we were going to put our heart health signs all around our park but in the end, we decided to put them on the 5K trail.”

For Jenni Domo from SCOPES, this refining was central part of the educational experience. She said: “Our solution changed daily. It was a complete work in progress until the very end of the project. We still revisit the solutions and see how we might change them (improve them) for the next challenge.”

We hope this feedback helps as you move forward imagining and planning your #STEMfeedsOhio solutions. Finally, don’t get hung up on doing all the steps in a particular order—often times you revisit steps as you refine your solution. Encourage your students to stay fluid and creative throughout the process!

Let us know that your school will participate using the form below. If you have yet to set a date for your preliminary showcase, don’t worry! Just register your school and we will follow up later about your showcase.


Register your school for the 2019 Ohio Design Challenge
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