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Design Thinking - Round 2!

This month’s Communication Meetings in both the middle and upper schools gave us an opportunity to share the emerging vision of a fully integrated academic program that focuses on best teaching and learning practices of the 21st century. Through research and collaboration we are honing in on some key recommendations just in time for the consultants who will be coming to help us rethink and redesign our schedule. One of the recommendation to our academic program reads:

Recommendation #1: 21st Century Skills Program Strands
These strands will be detailed and include aligned assessments and projects of growing complexity through a student’s years at Derryfield.
  • A clearly defined communication strand through grades 6-12, with an emphasis on writing and media literacy, which would be constructed and articulated holistically and within each department. This strand will include quantitative and qualitative expression through written, oral, and visual means. For example, students have to know how to generate data tables and interpret them as part of presentation and writing.
  • A clearly defined quantitative and qualitative problem-solving / design thinking strand through grades 6-12, which would be constructed and articulated holistically and within each department. Problem-solving means equations as we typically think of them, and also real life problem analysis and solution development.
Regarding both these strands, it is fair to say that the “future” has already begun. I blogged about media literacy earlier, so I would like to explain a little about problem-solving and design thinking. Many definitions of design thinking have arisen out of the educational call to address this kind of mindset. Here is a widely accepted definition from the Interaction Design Foundation:

Design Thinking is a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It’s extremely useful in tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by understanding the human needs involved, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, by creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and by adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing.

The stages of design thinking range from empathy (an understanding of an issue from the perspective of those affected) to ideation to prototyping to testing - and then possibly starting over some place in the cycle! We have been working this kind of thinking within many of the projects we offer in all of our classes from a sixth grade English project to a seventh grade math geometry project to a signature project in eighth grade World Justice. We have also used a middle school design challenge the past two years to introduce this kind of thinking to all the students at once. Last year, the design challenge (SportX) took the shape of groups of students vying for prizes for designing a hybrid, or entirely new, sport. This year the challenge (MusicX) has groups of students composing original music on homemade instruments. Here are the guidelines:

MusicX INNOVATION CHALLENGE GUIDELINES

Here’s the Challenge
For this year’s MusicX design challenge, DS middle school students will team up to create a new musical piece that will compete for the chance to be featured during a public performance for the Derryfield community.

Your mission is to to form a MusicX band with fellow students for the purpose of composing a new piece of music that consists of one or all of the following: original lyrics, original instrumental music, and original homemade instruments (this could include modifying ‘real’ instruments). Bands will submit TWO audition videos: (1) a one to three minute music video that features a performance of their new music, and (2) a one to three minute video documentary that explains the band’s creative process. Once submitted, bands will receive feedback about their musical performances from a panel of experts and have the opportunity to refine their work. Ultimately, a few musical pieces may be selected for a world premiere during a public concert.

FOLLOW THESE 6 STEPS
  1. CREATE A BAND, NAME THE BAND, AND DECIDE IF YOU WANT TO CREATE NEW LYRICS, NEW INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC AND/OR NEW MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS (SOME IDEAS FOR NEW INSTRUMENTS MAY BE FOUND HERE: https://diy.org/skills/instrumentmaker)
  2. APPOINT A DOCUMENTARIAN TO MAKE A VIDEO DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE BAND’S PROCESS OF CREATING INSTRUMENTS AND WRITING SONGS.
  3. BRAINSTORM, RESEARCH, AND BEGIN MAKING INSTRUMENTS
  4. PERFORM THE MUSIC AND GET FEEDBACK ON HOW TO IMPROVE IT FROM CLASSMATES AND MR. BONJORNO OR MR. BLAISDELL
  5. RECORD A 1-3 MINUTE MUSIC VIDEO FEATURING THE BAND’S MUSIC.
  6. SUBMIT BOTH THE VIDEO DOCUMENTARY AND MUSIC VIDEO TO MR. BLAISDELL VIA EMAIL BY APRIL 16TH.
ADDITIONAL MUSICX CHALLENGE GUIDELINES
  • Bands must include more than one instrument
          -Instruments can be new innovations or modified existing instruments
  • Songs must include at least three parts:
          -Melody
          -Harmony
          -Rhythm (drums/percussion)
  • Well composed pieces will be appropriate for school concert or for athletic events
  • Compositions should be original, including original lyrics and melodic ideas
  • Compositions should be one to three minutes long
  • Compositions must be written for at least three instruments/singers but no more than 10 players/singers
Possible approaches
  • Compose new song with lyrics and/or instrumental piece
  • Decide if you will be creating new instruments or using existing instruments
  • Consult with Mr. Bonjorno or Mr. Blaisdell to help you develop your song structure, melody and instrumentation
Judging Criteria
  • Creativity - How does your new instrument show your innovation? Is it unique and functional?
  • Musicality - Does your composition work as a piece of music and does it work for the new instruments?
  • Audience Appeal - Does your composition appeal to an audience? Will they remember it?
  • Documentary Video - How well does your video “tell the story” of your process/composition?
One of the reasons I wanted to blog about this this week was to demonstrate how we are addressing a key component of an excellent 21st century education. The other reason was to explain why your child might be rummaging through items at home to make an instrument! To this latter point, I would also invite you to talk to your child about how their group is progressing and, if you have ideas and items that could be used, that you encourage and help them rise to the design challenge.

Finally, congratulations to our Destination Imagination team that came in fourth overall in the state championships and a huge good luck to our spring sports teams as they begin their competitive seasons.

Cheers!

Mark Blaisdell
Head of Middle School
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