Design Thinking in Middle School

Middle School Head Brad Bernstein explains how Design Thinking will help as we assess our students’ Middle School experience.

The Middle School has started an exciting process to redefine its identity as part of implementing the school’s new strategic plan. Based on prior experience, Head of School Jessica Lee thought this would be a wonderful way to incorporate Design Thinking into our community.

Design Thinking is a process that helps create solutions for non-traditional problems. The process focuses on defining human needs in an empathetic way, creating solutions, prototyping, testing, and reflecting in a circular fashion.

As we begin to rethink the Middle School, we aren’t focused on solving “problems” — instead, we are thinking about how to make the program even stronger and more dynamic. The primary goals are to reimagine the Middle School in terms of program, space, and time, and to distinguish the division from the Lower School. Staying true to Sheridan’s mission and maintaining the K-8 feel will be on the forefront of our minds throughout the process.

Our preliminary work has begun in this project, and we are using it as learning opportunity for the faculty and community. We are working with a consultant experienced in design thinking and spent a half-day last week as a team mapping out the work ahead. As an initial step, in order to better understand our students’ experience, members of the Middle School faculty will shadow each of the Middle School grades for a day. Faculty will be spending a full day in classes observing and interviewing some students about their experience. Afterwards, we will compare observations and data from the shadow experiences, which will lead into identifying “problems” that we want to solve and solutions that we want to prototype and test. This process will continue into the next school year. We will keep you posted on our findings!