High school students embrace design thinking at UTS Hatchery

Picture by Rosary Coloma

Picture by Rosary Coloma

In summary: 
  • In a school world often focussed on assessment and exams, Riverside Girls High School students were let loose to experiment when they recently spent a day at the UTS Hatchery
  • The design thinking workshop brought students from different years and backgrounds together around a common cause and problem-solving goal

Ungoogleable – it's a term that was removed from a Swedish list of new words because of a trademark issue but one that's bandied about the staffroom at Riverside Girls High School regularly.

"We often ask," says school principal Belinda Kelly, "if a project can be completed by consulting Google or if it's going to give them confidence to think more deeply and solve a problem."

It was this desire to encourage students to delve deeper that prompted Kelly to bring 20 students, ranging from years 8 to 12, to undertake a day-long design thinking workshop at the UTS Hatchery.

Kelly, who first visited the Hatchery last year, was initially attracted by the space itself and visited with the idea of introducing something similar at Riverside Girls. She and head of curriculum Tracy Warzecha have been working on introducing cross-disciplinary and design thinking projects for some time.

Having a place like the Hatchery where students can stick up post-it notes and write on the wall, Kelly says, sends the message about the importance of thinking and process. "It's a special space," says Warzecha.

In a school world that is so often focussed on assessment and exams, the students undertaking the workshop agreed that having a place where you are encouraged to experiment, and even to fail, as they were told in the introductory welcome, is really encouraging.

"At school I sometimes feel alone in the ways I think," said year 10 student Zoe Eastwood, "but in a place like this, you feel less alone. Everyone's so connected."

In the workshop students from year 10 to 12 – many of whom had never worked together before – were placed in groups. They were asked to think about how they could make recycling attractive for young people.

Bringing students from different years and backgrounds together around a common cause and problem-solving goal, says Kelly, brings about the empathy that's so key to design thinking.

Year twelve student Allie Medina agrees, "My mum has always taught me to be empathetic – it helps you to see the world outside of yourself. I feel like it's a stereotype about teenagers not caring."

Medina says she was very lucky to get the opportunity to do the workshop. "There are so many girls back at school who would have liked to have come."

Eastwood agrees, "Look at the interest here and imagine how many people there are in other schools as well who'd like to come."

This discussion and listening to each other's opinions, says Kelly, as well as learning to trust each other, is a very important social aspect of learning that prepares students for the real world.

The Hatchery, says Warzecha, allows for the students to have this kind of discussion, to listen to each other and at times to alter their opinions. "To be able to say, 'I've opened my mind to something new.' That, after all, really is the basis for innovation."