Family journeys as catalysts for design thinking

December 2017. Local transport was a context for big design ideas and deep learning at Omokoroa No. 1 School.

The students from Omokoroa No. 1 School

“We built this flyover with a bike lane,” sing students in a cover of 80s pop music as their video about future transport kicks off in high spirits.

The four Year 5-6 students go on to describe their big design ideas about how to help families cycle to school safely from the far side of State Highway 2.  The students attend Omokoroa No. 1 School, near Tauranga.

Mia, Natasha, Kayla and Grace, pictured above, went through a design thinking process. The result? Plans for a flyover with dedicated bike lane, and illuminated by solar-powered LED lighting displays.

Learning took place during a cross-curricular term unit organised by the school’s Year 5-6 syndicate. Many students entered designs into the Future Transport Competition. The four girls’ Flyover entry was short-listed among narrative entries.

“Some people are quite close to school, so the kids like to bike, but it’s not very good at the moment, because of the traffic. So that’s why we’d like to make the flyover because loads of people could ride,” explains Natasha.

Teacher planning

Syndicate lead teacher Liz Webster says transport was used as a context for inquiry learning.

“We saw this as a means of supporting students to investigate a problem and move through to them actually planning solutions and sharing ideas.”

Liz says teachers came up with a syndicate plan which focused on technology, maths and literacy. The plan was a good foundation, but the teachers needed to be flexible in how they hooked all their students into the design process.

“We used a diversity of entry points, different YouTube clips and so on. We had to get them thinking about how you identify a problem,” she says.

Teacher Rob Maclaren says local changes in road use, traffic levels and road works meant there was plenty of relevant local context for students to discuss.

Colleague Aaron Joe says the strands of the technology learning area also provided a framework for lessons.

“The students were going through the process of identifying a problem, who are the main stakeholders, what outcomes exist, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. They’re following that whole product development process.”

The teachers created a Google Slide template that helped students to structure their work. Taking time to allow for depth in learning had good results, as Rob explains:

“When they started thinking about future transport they had a lot of outlandish ideas. We didn’t know as teachers if we should go along with that or make it more realistic, more about things around here. The kids sorted that out themselves. Their ideas became more realistic and less outlandish as they did more of their investigations.”