Design Thinking for Next Generation Problem-Solving
Engineering education is making in-roads in K-12 schools as more people begin to realize and value its real world applications. Perhaps you are familiar with the engineering design process yourself - ask, research, imagine, plan, create, test and evaluate, and improve. It's a powerful mindset to cultivate in our students, whether they choose to be engineers or not, as it teaches the process of problem-solving.
Design thinking has a lot in common with the engineering design process. The key distinction between the two is the inclusion of empathy in design thinking. Designers, unlike engineers, typically focus on a need rather than a problem. This slight, but important, shift requires designers to be in touch with the audience they are designing for. They must be able to step into their shoes and understand what they need, why, and what impact their solution will have on their well-being and quality of life. As our planet and society continue to grapple with challenges posed by climate change, poverty, water scarcity, and energy use, among a multitude of other issues, it is vital that K-12 schools adopt design thinking throughout the curriculum to ensure students are equipped to meet and overcome these challenges, and the ones that are yet to come.
This month, GreenNotes examined how schools, organizations, and design experts are supporting the inclusion of design thinking in K-12 classrooms, with stories from Encinitas Union School District, Atlas Workshops, One Stone High School, Chelmsford High School, and DLR Group's Dina Sorensen.
Feature Articles

Dreaming a New Way to Teach STEM in K-12 Schools

Design Thinking and Student Travel: Tools to Craft a More Sustainable World

Human-Centered Design Drives Student Learning at One Stone

Designing Water Purification for a Better World

A Work in Progress: Design Thinking as a Framework for Developing and Leading New Approaches to Learning

Sustainable  Design for a Bountiful Future

Reprinted with permission from Green Teacher magazine. 
Learn with Green Schools National Network
There's still time to register for the October site seminar, The Power of Place: A Walk Through Time, which will take place at Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake, Illinois. Two more learning opportunities have also been added - a site seminar at Virginia Beach City Public Schools that will explore sustainability leadership and an international trip to Africa that will explore the legacy of Wangari Maathai. You can learn more about all three opportunities below! 

The Power of Place: A Walk Through Time

Who: Teachers and Building Level School Leaders
When: October 17 - 18, 2019
Where: Prairie Crossing Charter School, Grayslake, Illinois
Cost: Catalyst Network Members: $100
          GSNN Members: $200
          Non-Members: $250

Join Green Schools National Network and 2017 Best of Green Schools award recipient Prairie Crossing Charter School for a two-day exploration of the Power of Place: A Walk Through Time. This site seminar will provide an opportunity for teachers and school leaders to see place-based, project-based, and problem-based learning in action. Prairie Crossing Charter School, a K-8 school just north of Chicago, was founded in 1999, with an environmental and sustainability lens to match the surrounding conservation neighborhood. Teaching and learning at Prairie Crossing are not restricted to the four walls of a classroom or pages in a book. Instead, teaching and learning are informed by the history of the school and grounds and how best to empower students to become Natural Leaders through place-, project-, and problem-based learning while preparing them for high school and beyond.   

Sustainability Leadership: Driving Innovation for a Prosperous Future

Who: Executive Level and Building Level School Leaders
When: March 30 - 31, 2020
Where: Old Donation School, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Cost: Catalyst Network Members: $100
          GSNN Members: $200
          Non-Members: $250

Join Green Schools National Network and 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Award recipient Virginia Beach City Public Schools for a 1.5 day exploration of Sustainability Leadership: Driving Innovation for a Prosperous Future. This site seminar is designed for Executive Level and Building Level leaders who are interested in learning how sustainability can help your district reduce expenses while decreasing your ecological footprint; improve the health and well-being of those who work, learn, and play in your schools; and prepare students for collage and careers in a future that will require new ways of thinking and learning. The site seminar will highlight how sustainability leaders, informed by Harvard University's Executive Education in Sustainability Leadership program, have developed purpose-driven ideas to drive innovation in organizational culture, operations and management, and teaching and learning.

Exploring the Legacy of Wangari Maathai in Kenya

Who:  K-12 Educators
When:  July 14 - 27, 2020
Where:  Kenya, Africa, including stops in Nairobi, Nyeri, Nakuru, Masai Mara
Cost:  $5,575 (based on a minimum of seven participants). Cost includes meals, accommodations, and activities as indicated in the itinerary; in-country transportation; full-time guide for the duration of the program; bottled water on the bus; and carbon offset. Does not include international airfare, estimated at $1,625 from Orlando, gratuities, or items of a personal nature. Other departure cities are available.

Exploring the Legacy of Wangari Maathai is a 13-day adventure designed for educators that follows the footsteps of the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate. This field-based learning experience incorporates themes of cultural exchange, service-learning, and sustainability. Participants will receive transdisciplinary learning experiences that will deepen their understanding of the complexities that surround global environmental issues and inspire action. This professional learning experience provides the following opportunities:
  • Learn about Wangari Maathai by visiting her birthplace and the foundations, institutes, and programs that continue to advance her work;
  • Live and work with members of the Green Belt Movement;
  • Design curriculum for your classroom that integrates Wangari Maathai programs and ideas; and
  • Explore one of the world's most important and unique natural resources - the African Plains.
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