Second Grade and Design Thinking

In January I participated in a Design Thinking protocol with various teachers from the four schools in our school district.  According to the Interaction Design Foundation, Design Thinking is a non-linear, iterative process which seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.  There are five phases in this process as shown below.


Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 2.50.39 PM

Thirty teachers had the task of making the ideal wallet for our partner.  We had to first think about what we would want in our ideal wallet. Then we had to interview another person about their ideal wallet.  Luckily, I was paired with a person who is very similar in taste.  This task was challenging and fun, and it really allowed me to practice my listening skills. At one point, my wallet for him contained a biker chain that attached to his belt.  One of his desires was to have a wallet that he would never lose (I know that feeleing!) I thought a biker chain was a perfect solution.  Turns out my partner had been mugged in his 20s by a man who had had such a wallet.  He hates the sight of biker chains, and with good reason!

The purpose of this protocol was to help develop empathy for others, and as the day unfolded I thought about how I wanted to try to do this with my students.  I also thought this would be a great way to educate my students about potential careers involving art: graphic design and fashion design.

For this assignment, I gave the task of designing the perfect t-shirt.  Following the design thinking process, we first designed a t-shirt for ourselves.  I wanted to see my students’ taste in t-shirt design.  Who likes unicorns and rainbows verses Fortnight (ugh!)? Then I paired students to ensure they would work with people who had different taste than their own.

Students then had to interview their client.  We discussed interview questions and how to follow-up these questions to dig deeper. The main goal here was for clients to be very specific in their wants, and to get the makers to ask important questions to ensure communication was happening.  Then students had to draw two drawings to share at a follow-up “meeting.”  Once their rough draft was approved, students got to make the finished piece.  Then they showed it to their client for approval.


There were a few snags along the way.  Some of our students moved to another school midway through the process, some partnerships had more arguments than discussions, and some kids just didn’t really care either way; but, for the most part, it was a learning experience in how important it is to listen to each other.


The t-shirt on the left is what the student designed for himself.  The t-shirt on the right is what he made for his client.  Below is what he wrote about the experience.


Here are some more examples.



IMG_0783 (3)IMG_0784


I love the students’ reflections on these.  They are so honest.

For the bulletin board, I posted a job description for graphic design and fashion design.  I hope that students take the time to peruse the bulletin board and think about career choices.





Author: Sonia Chapman

I am an art teacher, living in the Middle East, following my passion for art, teaching little children about the finer things in life, and loving every bit of it.

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