If you’ve been paying attention to the latest trends in independent education, you’ve almost certainly heard about Design Thinking. Though originally born of the 1980’s “human-centered design” architecture movement, this concept has been readily applied to the business world and, more recently, to educational institutions. The application makes sense: design thinking is a means of problem-solving that focuses on innovation, collaboration, creativity, ethical decision-making, and—of course—optimism: all hallmarks of a 21st century education.
In a climate where educators value creativity as much as analytical ability, it’s no surprise that design thinking has gained such traction. Stanford University’s d.school, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School’s Center for Design Thinking, and Riverdale Country School and IDEO’s Design Thinking for Educators partnership are among the organizations making the term ever more accessible. If you haven’t participated in a design thinking program, the term might still seem nebulous because it’s as much about the process as the result.
It seems that participating in service, too, is as much about the process as the end result. As I recently wrote, participating in service yields three major benefits. Service becomes as much about why you participated, how you interacted, and what you observed during the experience as it is about the sense of accomplishment you feel after you’ve served your community.
Service learning is an essential component of 21st Century education. Many existing school programs grew from an outdated service perspective, and some schools don’t have service learning programs at all. In some existing programs, students don’t necessarily come away from their experiences with significant lessons learned. If this sounds familiar, you might consider applying elements of design thinking to your school’s service learning curriculum.
Use this diagram, based on materials from d.school and Design Thinking for Educators, as you revamp service learning at your school. Note: Collaboration is central to design thinking, so if you can, use this worksheet with a group.
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