The workshop was facilitated by our colleague from Tools of Innovators, Alessandro Brandolisio, who has extensive experience in facilitating such workshops with adults and young people. However, this was the first time he conducted a Design Thinking workshop with younger children (8-12 years old). Due to his knowledge in the subject and because of his guidance throughout the workshop, we would like to share with you his impressions during this vibrant, exhilarating and learning enriched day.
How was your first experience working with young children on such a complex topic?
It was interesting to realize that the pace of such workshops had to be slowed down for the younger audience. I underestimated that one of them just learnded reading and writing two years ago (*laughs*). So working with templates that needed to be filled-out in a short amount of time was maybe not the best idea.
Some of the templates were quite complex (let’s call it ‘adult complex‘) that at the end it was all about figuring out how to explain certain exercises the easiest way possible. I tried to reduce this complexity by using examples out of the kids’ environment and their immediate experiences as well as speaking with a more visual language.
Actually, while facing this situation, I thought about Richard Feynman, a brilliant mind that besides many other things invented his “Feynman method” that is based on the principle: “if a topic could not be explained with kid words, then it was not fully understood”.
So while preparing for the workshop I went constantly back and forth. Thinking about it and coming back with a better explanation. Refocusing on the most important parts in order to explain things easier and better…
Can you tell us about the workshop’s challenge, what was it about?
Basically, they had to build the perfect school bag by applying the Design Thinking process and exploring each phase of it. It was very enriching, to see how at the end of the workshop the kids wanted to implement the method in their daily life, like re-building a toy of their own.
Nevertheless, while going through the process, I was a little shocked to see how some childrens’ creativity and imagination was somehow restricted. There was a time in the workshop where the kids had to come up with many different ideas of how they imagined their perfect school bag. Some of them ran out of ideas after only a few minutes.
Maybe this has a lot to do with how we are brought up. We are taught at school and even at home that our ideas are not good enough or relevant enough or feasible and therefore we stop being creative and in consequence we stop having innovative minds.
Is there something we can do about it?
What we can do to prevent that (since we cannot change the school system immediately) is to improve creativity by showing our kids that it’s okay to have wild and crazy ideas, that it is welcomed to speak their minds when they feel something is not right and needs improvement.
Sadly, creativity is not something that is promoted in school so much like other skills. We need to actively support our children’s critical thinking and creativity if we want them to be the next innovators of the future.
Sir Ken Robinson has some pretty good ideas about how we can create an educational system that cultivates creativity rather than demoralizing it. Watch his TED talk!
From your point of view, what do you think was the greatest learning for the kids throughout the workshop?
For them, it was very important to learn the difference between designing something for themselves but designing something for someone else. At the end they understood that their opinion lives besides many other opinions out there. And that your point of view coexists other ways of thinking, one might have to consider.
I firmly believe that in order to successfully build the next generation of future innovators, we have to teach our kids not only to focus on their OWN needs, but to consider what others do and want and get inspired by them. Building empathy for others – that’s what it’s all about.
Do you have any advice you want to share with us to start building this future generation of innovators?
Empower your kids to be creative, to let their imagination run wild and free, let them speak their ideas out loud. Don’t criticize their thoughts. Push them to express their innovative and outrageous ideas, have fun with them and let them solve their own problems by themselves.
The ball landed in the tree? Find a way to get it back down without climbing the tree; Don’t like to tie your shoes by yourself? Maybe build something that does it for you; Don’t know what to do with your free time? Certainly, don’t spend it entirely in front of the computer or TV!
Imagine, Invent, build, fail, try again, and have fun with it: You will see that Design Thinking 4Kids is an amusing and above all very enriching process.
Thank you very much Alessandro, it has been really inspiring to see how much we can learn about and from kids!
We will be looking forward to the next Design Thinking 4 Kids workshop in Hamburg’s autumn school holidays. Let us know if your offspring likes to participate. Place is limited, fun is guaranteed.
More information can be found here.
Isabel Calzada Zubiría