Design Learning
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Creative Commons License
Design Learning by Regan Drew, 2014 Allen Distinguished Educator is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Project Overview

Students identify real-world problems, prototype user-centered design solutions, and implement those solutions according to expert and user feedback. This process is segmented into the Mindset, Challenge, and Implementation phases - a teaching framework used by ADE Regan Drew. 

Regan Drew

School: Riverpoint Academy

Type of School: Public - Magnet

Location: Spokane, WA

Population: 115

Demographic: 5% minority students

% Free/reduced lunch program: 21%

Learning Outcomes

This project integrates learning concepts relating to entrepreneurship, design thinking, English, engineering and sustainability and addresses learning standards from 9th to 12th grade. Students will build skills related to entrepreneurship, storytelling and design while working to solve real problems to improve their communities, and own their design thinking process.

Download the open-source Project Plan Materials to view a complete list of standards and learning outcomes addressed in this project.

How Regan Does It

  • Grade: 11th and 12th
  • Timing: Regan uses this framework (Mindset, Challenge and Implementation) to guide an entire academic semester
  • Subjects: This project describes a teaching framework that can be used to teach multiple subjects
  • Materials: Regan uses prototypic carts (filled with raw materials and dollar store items), littleBits and the IDEO Design Kit
  • Project Steps: Regan spends six weeks on each project step

How You Can Do It

  • Grade: 9th - 12th
  • Timing: You could use the design learning framework (Mindset, Challenge and Implementation) to guide the progression of a single project or unit
  • Subjects: This project describes a teaching framework that can be used to teach multiple subjects
  • Materials: You can utilize design thinking resources online and other free resources included in the Project Plan Materials
  • Project Steps: You could modify the timing and delivery of each project step to fit within the parameters of your teaching schedule
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Comments (12)
Peter Graven
7/14/2017 12:17:55 PM

Teacher from Milwaukee, WI
A little bit about myself as I finish my first attempt at this project and look forward to taking those lessons and applying them to the upcoming school year.

I teach seventh and eighth grade science at Deer Creek Intermediate School, part of the St. Francis School District located just south of the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For nineteen years, I have been teaching a combination of mathematics and science courses including Earth and the Life Sciences. I am the lead teacher and mentor for SFROBOTICS, a robotics program that participates in a variety of different robotics activities and competitions, (FIRST TECH Challenge, FIRST LEGO League, MATE ROV, and SEAPERCH), as well as STE(A)M related projects that have a local and global impact with strategic partnerships.

I am one who constantly researches new and innovative opportunities for my students to be proactive in their learning. I consistently look outside the box to provide challenges that foster intelligent, independent invention and collaborative team building. My room is a virtual expedition into learning using technology through active engagement and teamwork. I created and coordinate ONEIGHTY to showcase the work of students where projects engage students to be innovators: their task-to ignite positive change in their world. One such project is the work being done with the Enable Community Foundation. This work produced a winning FTC team that captured the Wisconsin State Championship Motivate Award for their work with the LimbForge.

I received a BS degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Science and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, followed by a MEd in Educational Technology from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. I continue to advance my research both independently and through professional institutions and leadership groups.

You can connect with me through Twitter (@dotsciguy)

Peter Graven
7/14/2017 12:14:18 PM

Teacher from Milwaukee, WI
I made my own twist on this project utilizing the Design Process as we developed solutions to senior problems. The DIY is great, had to make some modifications to reach a student body of 70+ x2. [side note: should have limited my target group of students to maybe just one course instead of 2]. We ended up with a secondary project titled "Students helping Staff" to account for one small hiccup - our clients. Our first project was titled "Students helping Seniors" (both projects engaged in using CAD and 3D printing to develop their products) and all was good leading up to our first encounter with everyone. Three weeks prior to having students meet with the seniors, we discussed the project, had a good brainstorming session... and then it was as though all was forgotten. Seniors could no longer communicate needs to felt they didn't have any - as though my students could force them into assisted living arrangements. We toiled through it.... and attempted solutions from shower assisted devices to grabbers. The struggle was.... most of the "needs" the seniors mentioned were easily helped with a quick trip to the local Walgreens and what was offered up was challenging for students to engineer knowing that the challenge wasn't a challenge if they could just go and buy what the senior needed.

In saying all of this, we have developed prototypes.... and if they work out, I have an upcoming group of students (in a much smaller class) that can make the changes needed for the seniors for this project.

I plan on going through the process again this year, but will be working with a STEM Encore class of 20 students instead of 140. The lessons learned, the smaller class, and approaching a new audience - our local city government (city hall, police, fire department) - should make the second time so much easier as develop solutions not only for our local municipality but see what we can market to the surrounding municipalities.

Jenny Burns
12/2/2016 1:26:13 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Thanks for sharing this great description of your experience Mark!

Your reactive adaptations to the project brought on by your new students and school were very insightful. As all great teachers know, adapting on-the-fly is a necessity.

The grading process you used sounds interesting, please explain more about this. Did you keep track of which process each student worked on every day to ensure all students practiced all steps?

I’m also interested in knowing how this project was managed with all students working on one design. Where students split into groups? How did you ensure that all students had opportunities to contribute?

This project sounds like a lot of fun and it sounds like both you and your students got a lot out of it. How did your colleagues and parents react? Is the game completed and available to students now?

All the best,

Mark Suter
12/1/2016 7:36:04 PM

Teacher from Pandora, OH
I didn’t plan on changing hardly a thing. I read through all the materials, example design thinking exercises, etc. Then the students showed up for the first week of school. This was a brand new district so I didn’t have the students’ trust. I made the (questionable) decision to abandon the original plan because they weren’t buying it. I just started asking my game design students, “You want to make something epic? What could we do? I’ll buy everything you need, what’s the coolest thing you can imagine that a bunch of gamers pretending to be game designers can MAKE?”. We came up with an arcade machine that would play student-made games rather than emulate old games.

I didn’t implement any of the student written reports or business model canvas for a venture. Instead, I showed them how to put themselves in the user’s shoes, and actually observe them in their “natural habitat” using the product. I used the Stanford Design School’s “Taking Design Thinking to Schools Initiative” 6 point process (from
- Understand
- Observe
- Point of view
- Ideate
- Prototype
- Test

Instead of writing reports, I’d point to this list of 6 and ask which they were working on today, what was the plan, and near the end of the period, what happened, what adaptations they’re making. That WAS the grading. Interviews. They could always point to this list and articulate what they’re doing and why, how it fit in the larger picture. If that can’t happen, the “learning” is out of context and more likely to be lost over time.

One example of Design Thinking was when sketching the arcade cabinet, we were considering shorter or younger students playing, they can’t see the controls, so we included a pull out step stool to stand on. For where to place the joystick and buttons, we had students place their hands on large paper in the most comfortable position, marking them. When we had 2 students test our “final” result, they noticed their shoulders kept bumping while playing, so they had to modify placement more, which really included EVERY one of the 6 steps.

Jenny Burns
11/29/2016 3:11:16 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Meg,

Thanks for sharing. The library space does sound like a big challenge. I encourage you to check out how 2016 ADEs Dawn DuPriest and Tracey Winey manager a makerspace in the library at their school: for some more ideas and inspiration.

I’m curious to know more about how you modified the project to fit into 30-minute sustained, and focused challenges. How often did you see the same students and how many 30-minute challenges did each student participate in?

It’s great to hear you brought in more materials for simple electronics! Where there any materials in particular that were a big hit with your students?

- Jenny

Meg Allison
11/29/2016 12:53:27 PM

Teacher from Moretown, VT
The library space is our biggest challenge. Without a set roster of students, it is hard (though not impossible) to implement new ideas, programs, and ways of thinking. It is our hope that if we build it (a place for design-thinking and innovation) as a hub or a hive set inside the library, that they (the students foremost, and secondly the teachers) will come.

As we have a library and serve 750 students, we had to make many adaptations to the original plan. What we took advantage of are a 4 times a week blocks of time we've named "call back", where students self-schedule themselves to see teachers for extra help or enrichment. We've created opportunities for students during this "call back" time, when we have some semblance of control as between the two teacher-librarians, we have 30 students assigned. Because students go to a variety of different call backs in any given week, finding consistency is our main challenge. Long-term design-thinking projects tend to lose steam. Short, sustained, and focused challenges fitting into 30 minute time-frames work best. (Though longer-time frames are possible, assuming students are staying engaged and committed).

We made lots of changes to the supply list. We've added more hands-on "makerespace" type of products in addition to LittleBits, including MakeyMakey kits, Squishy Circuit kits, the dollar store items that Regan Drew used (feathers, pompoms, patterned duck tape, felt, etc) but also materials for simple electronics (conductive thread, motors, coin cell batteries and packs).

Debbie Moore
9/8/2016 4:37:01 PM

Teacher from Glendale, AZ
We are going to do it again this year.
We have set December dates for the 20 Time project so hope to have more young entrepreneurs soon. :)

Jenny Burns
9/8/2016 4:12:08 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Debbie,

This is great news, thanks for the follow-up :) Do you plan on using this project again to inspire students to pursue entrepreneurial ventures? Did you adapt or modify this project for your class?

- Jenny

Debbie Moore
9/7/2016 8:38:53 PM

Teacher from Glendale, AZ
He is managing the business and has a business mentor assisting him.
Just had 3 brothers get their non-profit paperwork approved
AND...a student just passed his real estate exam so will be starting his business soon.

Eager to see what this year's students do!!

Jenny Burns
8/18/2016 2:57:15 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Debbie,

It’s great to hear that this project inspired you to create entrepreneurs on your high school campus. The Junior Achievement program looks like a great fit to enhance and build upon this project. Can you share more about the lessons and activities from “Be Entrepreneurial” that were particularly helpful?

I am also curious to know more about the business your student created! Is he still managing the business now? Do any other students in your class work with him?

- Jenny

Debbie Moore
8/18/2016 1:51:26 PM

Teacher from Glendale, AZ
Thank you for your inspiration for this idea. We used your idea to create entrepreneurs on our high school campus. We challenged students to think of a business that they might want to own one day and then took them through the process of writing that business plan. We utilized Junior Achievement's program to get us business people in the classroom to network with our students. JA had a program called "Be Entrepreneurial" and that got our students brainstorming, becoming creative and working on real ideas.

And...I am very happy to say that we had a student create his own business complete with a trip to the City to get his license. Thanks for the idea to make this happen....and the funding to make this a reality in my classroom!

Debbie Moore

Jenny Burns
11/9/2015 4:25:06 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
How could you adapt this project to fit your classroom needs and teaching style?

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