Designing Solutions for Our Community: 5th Grade Girls and Design Thinking

At DIY Girls we have used design thinking to plan and create a vision for our programs for girls. Design thinking is basically the fundamental belief that we can create change, no matter how big a problem, or how little time, or how small a budget we have. The process is about creating a deep empathy and understanding of needs and motivation of people. As a team, it gives us the permission to fail and learn from our mistakes and as a result we come up with amazing new ideas, get feedback, and iterate.

This past Spring, we decided to introduce design thinking to 5th grades girls in our after school program. With the support of the California Endowment, the goal of the project was for girls to design and build interactive games and exhibits that address community health issues.

We introduced the project to the girls by facilitating a brainstorming session where girls identified health issues affecting their community. We explained to the girls that design thinking is a process of solving complex problems without the end solution in sight and one that requires understanding the community, asking questions, identifying problems, uncovering ideas, prototyping, testing, and demoing. 

We asked the girls the following questions and they each wrote their responses on post-it notes that were all collected and displayed on the board for all to see.

  1. What does health mean to you?

  2. What kind of health issues can you think of?

  3. What health issues do you see in your community?

  4. What does your community need?

Girls identified health issues such as asthma, cancer, and diabetes. For health issues they see in their community, girls talked about mental health, homelessness, gang violence, people not eating healthy food, people with disabilities and killing of animals. 

After this session, girls (in teams of 2-3) selected health issues and came up with one or more project ideas.  

Projects Ideas

1. Beyonce Says: “Beyonce says” is an interactive game that uses the Makey Makey and Scratch to get you exercising without you even knowing it. This game is set up as a maze that makes you move like Beyonce before getting to the next step. In order to get out of the maze, you have to move it, move it. “Beyonce says” helps young kids who are having issues with weight exercise with friends in a fun way.

2. Watch it: “Watch it” is a mobile app that helps you check your blood pressure and provides advice if it is too high. “Watch it” has a promo ad that introduces the dangers of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

3. Say no: “Say NO” is a promo video that tackles the issue of substance abuse. “Say NO” is a story about a kid who goes down the wrong path.

4. This is your business: “This is your business” is a video game created in Scratch. It helps kids and adults think about eating healthy in a fun way.

5. Street House: The Street House combats the issue of homelessness. It’s a small house that fits on the sidewalk or in comfortable corners. It has a smaller house for pets. Inside, there is light! This house is meant to give the homeless a cool, modern place to live.

6. Be Happy: The video gives advice on how to be happy for people having problems with emotional health. It’s meant to be relaxing and informative.

7. Wheelchair 2.0: Wheelchair 2.0 gives people who can’t walk a comfortable, fun, and fashionable way to get around. This wheelchair features massage capabilities, a fan, and storage. It is fashionable and even lights up when you are traveling at night. This wheelchair makes you feel special. This is an important for a person who has lost their ability to walk.

8. The Safety Necklace: This necklace keeps you safe when walking alone in your neighborhood. When you feel like you’re in danger, press the button! This button will call the cops, give your GPS location, and shriek to scare off attackers. The Safety Necklace looks cool so you want to wear it. You don’t have to be scared anymore.

The girls worked twice a week for 8 weeks to design a solution using tools and tech skills they had learned through our program. Prototypes of most of the projects were completed as girls realized some of their ideas would take much longer to complete. The project culminated with a showcase that was open to families, teachers and community members. Although some teams didn’t complete their projects, girls learned about prototyping and the reality of bringing projects to completion! 

Photos of girls making projects

Photos of final showcase

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