Innovation Lab Inspires Students to Identify Problems, Find Solutions

La Jolla Country Day School uses design thinking to teach students how to identify a problem people don’t even know they have. One team of upper schoolers recently discovered a dramatic disconnect between how much water people think they’re wasting and how much is actually being wasted; now they’re looking for ways to bridge that gap. Another team, working for an international organization, is creating a strategy to more effectively distribute hydration systems on the playing fields. And another group is researching and developing social and technical solutions to manage residential noise.

All this is taking place in the school’s Innovation Lab, a flexible, collaborative space with over 4,000 square feet of writable walls that opened in fall 2015; it’s equipped with everything from machine tools, hand tools, and sticky notes to analog and digital electronics. It also includes mobile work stations and a 100W laser cutter that students built from scratch. They learn how to use cutting-edge technologies as well as the social impacts of technology and their designs.

LJCDS’s Design and Innovation curriculum is based on a strategic plan allowing for the development of a dynamic K-12 curriculum. Key skill sets and processes—seen through physical, digital, and human lenses—are being used as a course scaffold to fully prepare students to become successful innovators by the time they graduate.

“We believe in teaching students all the skills necessary to make anything that inspires them,” says Director of Design and Innovation Matt Abbondanzio, “but also how to determine what problems they should be solving in order to make the world a better place.”

Does your school do something similar?

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