About Lightning Strikes

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Quick Challenge

How might lunch at school be improved/more fun/different?

This was the quick challenge my class recently tackled. The idea of quick challenges comes from the book Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley, discussed in several earlier posts. In a quick challenge, small groups are given a situation, such as redesigning gift-giving or wallets, to practice the skills of design thinking. The purposes of this type of exercise are to build confidence and to learn from failures in a safe situation. I chose to have my students consider lunch at school, since it is an easy thing for them to observe and think about.

I first assigned students to observe at lunch and come up with one thing each really liked about lunch at school and one thing he/she did not like, thought could be improved, or could be different. The discussed their ideas in small groups, making connections between ideas and  piggybacking onto others' ideas. Then we collected an assortment of lunch-related characteristics that one or more students thought would benefit from a change.

As shown by the list, there were no wild and crazy ideas, but I hope there will be in the future as the 4th graders get more comfortable with the process. All of the ideas were relevant to lunch, if not practical. As our whole class discussion progressed, themes began to emerge, and we then focused on the desire for more time for lunch. I asked why they wanted more time and the unanimous response was that they felt they didn't have enough time to eat. We have 20-minute lunch periods, which seem adequate to the adults in the school. One student commented, "But we can't change the schedule, can we?" I agreed that neither they or I could change the schedule, but we could think about the problem they identified - not enough time to eat - and look for other solutions to that. They were able to conclude that we could include additional snack times during classroom times. 

After this breakthrough, they started looking at the list with an eye to finding the things that students might have some control over. One student said, "We could bring our own chocolate mix to make chocolate milk." Other ideas were asking the adult supervisors to help with shouting in the lunchroom and bringing their own bigger desserts from home. 

We will be repeating this exercise with other scenarios. For now we have made a start in helping students realize that they can find problems on their own to try to solve, which they will be asked to do later in STEAM classes, and it’s important to ask why something is a problem, because that may lead you to possible solutions.