Muddling In On Program

Today, talking with one of our science teachers, I stumbled into his project — kids building cars.  But cars that have to run

  • without using gravity
  • without using an electric motor
  • without using a traditional transmission
  • must run on reaction force.

The chassis for these cars were all milk cartons.  They ran on amazing things: compressed air; mousetraps and springs.  Pistons directed at walls.  projecting spears.  All of them run on reaction force: an amount of energy released in one direction, leading to a direct compensatory release of energy (movement) in the other.


Guess what? It’s design thinking.  It’s design thinking in action.  It’s program.  It’s project.  It’s curriculum. It’s materials science.  While muddling around school looking for existing curriculum to turn into a design thinking experience for students, I found a teacher who was already doing it, right under my nose.

I was tickled pink.

Part of me feels like I should be annoyed.  I mean, he’s just doing this.  He’s not sought approval from the design thinking program coordinator.  He hasn’t deliberately set out to teach it the way that I have outlined it should be taught.  He’s just doing it. But that’s just it.  He’s just doing it.  He’s presented a project to his students and said, “here it is. Here’s the thing you have to do.  Doing these steps ahead of time will help you get closer to success. They won’t guarantee success, but they get you closer.”

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  1. Feel the twinge, but do not be annoyed. Teachers with “coordinator” in their title (a meta teacher is my other umbrella phrase) is first called to discover and spotlight particular aspects of teaching craft, then model and support that aspect of craft, and last to instigate and create. Design is worth doing. The schools we want are ones where it “just happens.”

    Now the job is making sure he has the resources (especially space and time) to let the design process work.

    Congrats! Save a car or two to display in the design lab!

    • Yeah, so TOTALLY far from annoyed. Very pleased to discover that folks are doing it without prompting and without fuss, and without the need to highlight it and make it happen.

      Had a good conversation with another teacher as well about bringing design into her world history class, over dinner tonight. All in all, feeling very pleased about the progress of the middle school.

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