Global Perspective Inspires Fourth Graders to Find Solutions

Presbyterian Day School wants to foster critical, creative, and sophisticated thinkers. Teachers make use of Harvard’s “Visible Thinking” routines, and students frequently explore issues from a global perspective.

This spring, after reading Linda Sue Park’s book, A Long Walk to Water, featuring two children from southern Sudan and their country’s ongoing struggle to get clean water, fourth graders launched a school-wide campaign to help build wells in an African village.

Their efforts included fundraising, researching water problems, learning about sustainable wells, interviewing local Sudanese immigrants, and finding a charity to support the project. They designed kiosks to educate and encourage donations from their schoolmates, then evaluated and improved them based on a process called the “ladder of feedback.”

“The book has been a class ‘read-aloud’ project for several years,” says faculty member Alice Maund Parker. “But this group’s synergy from cooperation and collaboration across subjects took things to a new level.” Ms. Parker leads the school’s EDGE Design Thinking class, which teaches solution-finding via a collaborative, research-focused framework. Students are asked to Explore the problem; Develop empathy, Grow their ideas, and Evaluate prototypes. She sees her role more as facilitator than instructor. “It was the students who decided to focus on water charities.”

“I put myself in their shoes,” says fourth grader Brian Kelly Johnson. “I saw what they felt and how much they needed help.” The whole program, says another student, “is designed to create a generation of ‘need-finders’—people who look around the world and find something that doesn’t fit, then try to find a solution to make it better.”

Does your school do something similar?

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