Reinventing 5th Grade

The K-12 Lab’s ongoing efforts are focused on engaging students and educators alike in design thinking, a methodology that can reunite families, solve community crises, and empower a generation. Because the K-12 Lab believes that students are more engaged and achieve greater learning when they have the opportunity to be innovative, creative, and collaborative, teachers become a key change agent in creating these opportunities.

Teachers and administrators who attend K-12 workshops at the d.school dive deep into the design thinking process. Participants work on real world design challenges and create design thinking activities that get tested with kids. The real payoff in exposing teachers to such immersive, transformational experiences, happens when they take design thinking back to their schools.

Marcy Barton, a fifth grade teacher at Corta Madera Elementary School in Portola Valley, California, innovated a groundbreaking Integrated Exploratory classroom last year. Instead of teaching her students about 16th century explorers with textbooks, she engaged them with a hands-on design project: Build a sailing vessel with limited materials that can carry 30 grams of weight. Through the design process of constructing a 16th century sailing vessel, students learned far more than standards-based social studies and science concepts. The results? A young crop of budding inventors who, when faced with moving precious cargo across a stormy wading pool, successfully discovered new friends and new talents.

She produced this video to share how her students approached the design challenge and the role it played in her curriculum.