Friday, January 8, 2016

Kindergarten Design Thinking Challenge: Help the Gingerbread Man Cross the River

In order to prepare BCS students for the 21st  century, Design Thinking is integrated into the core curriculum at every grade level. The Design Thinking process begins in kindergarten and even students at this young age are challenged to create solutions to real-world problems.

In December, kindergarten students were tasked with a fun holiday-themed Design Thinking challenge: Help the Gingerbread Man Cross the River.

Teachers provided students with supplies that included tinfoil, mini marshmallows, and toothpicks. Students were free to choose to work alone, with a partner, or in a group.

Most students first attempted to build a boat out of tin foil. When testing out their boats they observed whether or not the boat floated, and if the gingerbread man stayed dry. If the boat took on water the students had to decide whether to start over with a new design, or to fix the design they had already created. Some students added marshmallow floaters to their boats. They soon discovered that marshmallows, like the gingerbread man, melt in water. One innovative student suggested, “Maybe the foil can help to cover the marshmallow!”

Although in many cases the gingerbread man made it safely to the other side of the river, quite a few ended up crumbled into a wet, soggy mess. Sarah Flynn, a kindergarten teacher, said that both success and failure are important components of this lesson.

“Kindergarten students don't know how to fail,” she said. “They try an idea and if it works, great!  If not, they try another idea and they keep working at it until they finally achieve their goal. I love doing activities like this in kindergarten because the students begin to understand that making mistakes and getting the answer wrong is a part of learning.  As they continue through BCS and beyond, I want them to feel confident enough to take risks, to acknowledge failure, and to try again.”

In all, the challenge was a success and the students had a fantastic time designing, building, observing, and learning to accept both success and failure.