Design Challenge empowers educators to bring innovation into the classrooms

As the rest of the world infuses innovation into their daily operations to enhance productivity and effectiveness, public education must do the same to ensure that we are preparing students for success in a quickly evolving global economy. In an environment that often revolves around standards, regulations and seasoned methodologies, how you do inspire and empower teachers to take education to the next level? This is exactly what the St. Vrain Valley School’s Design Challenge set out to accomplish on Saturday, March 5.

Sponsored by the Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley, the Design Challenge is new competition designed to ignite innovation, create breakthrough ideas and celebrate the enterprising ecosystem of St. Vrain Valley Schools. In its first year, the challenge provided each school an opportunity to solve an authentic system challenge within their school environment. Fourteen teams from 13 schools “pitched” their idea to solve a problem or transform the educational experience in their school.

“We've learned from our STEM schools that design thinking is a powerful methodology for adults and students,” said Diane Lauer, Executive Director of Professional Development. “Our intention is to extend design thinking throughout the district so that this problem-solving protocol is used in all school settings.”

Working with design thinking mentors

The process from idea to pitch went beyond putting an idea into presentation for a panel of judges. Each team worked with a mentor who took them through the design thinking process to approach their ideas through the frames of empathy, creativity and rationality to meet user needs and solve real-world issues.

The theme for this year’s competition revolved around one or more of the six essential components of learning technology: shared leadership, family and community partnerships, device operations and support, learning habits and expectations, tier 1 instruction, student agency and learning mindsets. Participants also attended a day long Design Thinking Institute that not only supported their approach to their challenge pitch, but also gave a stronger foundation in design-thinking concepts that they can implement throughout their daily curriculum.

The winning pitches included:

Skillful Practitioner Category

  • First Place ($4,000) went to Skyline High School for their program ideas to increase parent engagement through several different channels.

  • Second Place ($1,000) went to Timberline PK-8 for their prototype of a web-based Homework Club/Reward Program that is better engaging students in their education.

Emerging Learners Category

  • First Place ($4,000) went to Mead High School for their Virtual Tutoring Lab that is connecting students to support and resources from any location.

  • Second Place ($1,000) went to Mountain View Elementary School for their ideas to transform the traditional school library into a 21st Century Innovation Media Hub.

“The Education Foundation was excited to sponsor the Design Challenge and are thrilled that thirteen schools participated and each school tackled challenges in their school using the design process to provide real solutions to their concerns,” said Lee Berg, Executive Director of the Education Foundation for the St. Vrain Valley. “Without exception, each school found the design process to be a tool that can be used from approaching other challenges and opportunities for improvement.”