Scaffolding Student Making

Yesterday, I attended Day 3 of Stanford’s K-12 Lab 2014-2015 Home Team d thinking arc. The day was focused on exploring mindsets and design thinking in the classroom. Based on our interests, we rotated through a series of activities though always focusing on three d thinking mindsets–recognizing more than one POV (point of view), having a bias toward action, and seeing constraints as opportunities.

My first session was a design thinking STEM activity where we were challenged to build a grabber– Galileo-style (as in Camp Galileo, a very popular and innovative camp that uses d thinking in its activities). Because of time constraints, the activity focused on the ideate, prototype, and test portions of the design process (though they created a frame of needing the grabber because the user was too short to reach items).

IMG_8498What intrigued me about the activity was that we all started by making the same basic simple machine (with a hinge and lever)–a Do-With-Me strategy– and then modified the machine to meet the challenge (of picking up three items–a sponge, a plastic solo cup, and a small dowel).

The simple machine we started with didn’t meet the challenge, but scaffolded students’ (especially first and second graders) understanding in a way so that they can truly focus on innovation (rather than producing crap that sort of works). The machine in the picture was a “standard-base” so that we were all able to build something that worked.

In addition, the facilitators spend time rapidly prototyping live–the whole group generated ideas that were quickly tried out by the facilitator so that students’ minds were opened to the different possibilities and so that it was clear to all the expectation was collaboration and sharing, not competition. As we worked, the facilitators also stopped for group sharing so that we intentionally reflected mid-build, which helped spur redesign and helped groups that were struggling.

I struggle with how much to scaffold student making– too much and it isn’t their project, too little and some students are unable to complete the project. By providing a standard base, young students can complete this challenge and learn more about simple machines (and levels and hinges) than if they were asked to start from scratch.

IMG_8499Our completed project–we were able to pick up all three objects and pick up a sharpie and write (poorly) on a piece of paper. Poor Jenny–I was a fan of the minimalist style for this project so ours didn’t look at cool as some of the other projects.

About Jessica Lura

I am the director of teaching and learning at public K-8 charter school in Northern California. I work to integrate technology and hands-on learning into the classroom. I develop and lead professional development for my school, helping teachers develop project-based learning and design thinking units, integrate technology and digital citizenship in the classroom, and create opportunities for real world interactions and projects. For my efforts, I was named Santa Clara County's Office of Education Charter School Teacher of Year for 2013 and a 2014 Comcast All-Star Teacher. I am also a Google Certified Innovator
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