Students in the Pfautz/Regan cohort have been engaging in design sprints that call upon their empathetic thinking skills.
Benchmark’s Innovation Lab, a makerspace facility designed by world-renowned architects, allows students the chance to develop their gifts and test their skills through project-based learning.
Through real-world problems and creative, open-ended challenges, students learn the fundamentals of design thinking, digital literacy, and the four C’s — critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication skills.
Genesis of the Innovation Lab
It started with a question: How might we create opportunities for students to develop the skills and mindsets needed to understand how the world works and how to contribute in a meaningful, empathic way?
Though the structure is new, innovative, research-based teaching and learning strategies have been employed at Benchmark since its inception in 1970. At the base of this rooted foundation, we are, in essence, adding a new layer. This layer involves the design thinking method of problem solving and reigniting the age-old constructivist philosophy of learning.
The stunning design of the Innovation Lab is the work of two world-renowned architects, Bill and Chris Sharples ‘77 of SHoP Architects, who are Benchmark alumni. In appreciation for the positive difference that Benchmark made in their lives, they generously donated their time and talent to designing a facility that is a source of great pride for the school.
Design thinking is a tool, a system to help students manage their thinking as they navigate through real-world, human-centered problems.
Design thinking projects or challenges often involve real-world context, and are shaped in the form of a “How might we…?” question.
Benchmark’s design thinking process, similar to the design and engineering process, focuses on the needs of the user. At its root is empathy. Students observe, interview, research, and inquire about the needs of others in order to uncover insights and deeply consider the context of a problem. Once they understand the person or people for whom they are designing, they ideate, prototype, test, and get feedback on their solutions that help to address the core needs of the user.
How do you flip a totally hands-on project in virtual learning times? Kevin Canney and his social studies classes got creative, innovating new ways to study one of humanity’s most basic needs: shelter.
How can design thinking solve the world’s problems? That’s just what Dr. Heather Warley’s class set out to discover.
Director of Innovation