PMQ Corner #35

“Design Thinking” in Primary School Curriculum

Mr Woo Tat Wing, CCC Wanchai Church Kei To Primary School (Kowloon City)

Written by: Mr Woo Tat Wing, CCC Wanchai Church Kei To Primary School (Kowloon City)
Translated by: Derek Leung

This year, our school is honoured to join the YES! KIDS CAN School Outreach programme organised by PMQ and a team of devoted architects and artists. During the run of the programme, even before class, we discussed the problems of the To Kwa Wan community and designed how to lead the students to explore the community. I gained a lot from my broadened horizon.

Design Thinking x Co-create the Community

It is the "Design Thinking" that PMQ adopts to pilot the students from exploration to creation through "Empathize", "Define", "Ideate","Prototype"and "Test".

"Empathize" means the understanding of the needs of every individual in the community. During the months of the campaign, the hot weather of even more than 30°C did not stop me joining my colleagues, students and mentors to visit the places where the students got together regularly. On the contrary, it was a big challenge for those who rarely talked to others to take courage to visit the strangers and find out their needs in the community. Differences would arise between what the students knew and what the owners of newsstands, real estate agencies, cowsheds, garages, elderly homes and local restaurants said, “The students thought it was hard to hire a waiter, but in fact not according to a bistro owner, and that local eateries were only busy in the morning and at noon, but not other times.” Through these, students were able to design after identifying the needs of different walks of life.

"Define" and "Ideate": This was a pretty long process for students, compared with their discussions of limited time in their regular lessons. They were required to sort out, classify and analyze the information acquired from their interviews. Meanwhile, the mentors asked them to think creatively after guiding them to analyze the needs of the community systematically.

'The boundless fantasies of the students were the very elements of creativity.'

I found the students’ wild guess and fantastic ideas were far more than mine. The entire whiteboard was filled with their memo sheets. While the teachers’ ideas may be confined by the stark reality, the boundless fantasies of the students were the very elements of creativity. Finally, we came up with a creative idea which took into account the students’ ideas.

"Prototype": Since the launch of STEM by Education Bureau in 2015, students have been encouraged to solve their life problems with their scientific knowledge. For example, bamboo and plastic water pipes are popular but may not have been used before. Under the guidance of the mentors, the students were aware of the use of insignificant materials to make models, and able to complete them quickly. 6 students and their respective instructor completed the 6-metre bamboo tower in 3 hours… I was amazed!

"Test": Students enjoyed the most as they could play with their own products in their own new ways: Water was poured to add more fun to the table tennis ball rolling game on a plank made of semi-circular water pipes; several table tennis balls were shot altogether instead of the traditional individual ball shooting.

This programme is very similar to the E-STEM programme (including Environmental Protection, Science and Technology) carried out in my school. Lately, my school staff and students have joined hands to get to know more about the rubbish in the sea as well as the way to make small plastic categorizers and solar scarecrows, so as to enhance the students’ awareness on environmental protection. Even in the PMQ programme, the bamboo sticks adopted by the instructor were collected from the New Year Flower Fairs whereas the plastic bottles recycled from the community, putting in force the concept of being eco-friendly.

'The students are aware that they are not alone when I can be with them during the practice of creativity.’

I learn a lot during my participation in the PMQ programme, which I can apply in the regular lessons. For instance, teaching the students to empathize before making their creative works enables me to think of their personal needs when I write, draw or make handicrafts; the students are aware that they are not alone when I can be with them during the practice of creativity; allowing the students to untap their limitless ideas, though somewhat impractical, ignites their inspiration to think in different manners; and it is possible to take into consideration their creativity in their assignments or case study projects.

In this programme, 4 groups of 6 students were assigned to mentors. It was easier for understanding what the students thought and guiding them how to express and execute their ideas. The design of small group learning allowed them to think in details. They needed to brainstorm creatively in limited space.

The traditional way of teaching and craft-making cannot cater to the market needs along with the ongoing STEM development. While it is somewhat difficult to make robots and run large-scale projects when school resources are scarce and many GPA teachers are not from the science stream, the professional instructors outside schools can meet the needs with their expertise and experience-sharing skills. Following the exciting vehicle making workshop last year, the joint production of 6-metre bamboo structure 'Bamboo Elevator', 'Identity Octopus', 'PingPong Channel' and 'Bamboo Pavilion' between instructors and students this year is even a brand new experience. It is a surprise the external professionals help enrich the current curriculum, bringing creativity and new pedagogy to the campuses.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the professional teaching team in the YES! KIDS CAN School Outreach programme conducted by PMQ for helping the students from my school complete their creative works.

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