Ideateing ain’t so easy

Our Innovation Diploma group has been studying how to apply design thinking these past few weeks. Our first experience was on the Upper School garden, where we explored possible uses for it from growing plants for the kitchen to use to finding a completely new use for the space. From that experience, we created many “how might we” statements and separated them into groups. From those groups, we chose 4 statements that were broad, yet relevant (applied to our school or the innovation diploma program). Then, each group chose one “how might we” statement and began working immediately with the goal of creating an implementable solution by the end of the next week. My group, consisting of Anya, Maclean, Nina, Melina, Margaret, and Claire, chose the statement “How might we make our school more sustainable.”

In our green house gas infested world, reducing, reusing, and recycling is becoming ever important. Immediately, we started to observe and empathize with the students, we identified problems and even began to form possible solutions. Some of the problems we observed were, information posters like this, were way too big and didn’t provide any information about how each of us can contribute to making the school more sustainable, recycling bins throughout the school were unused and confusing, and our LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) rating was too low to proudly call ourselves a sustainable school. We decided to hone in on the recycling problem because it seemed like everyone should use a recycling bin, so why aren’t they? To start, Anya and I interviewed Dr. Jones, the environmental science teacher. From out interview, we concluded that, 1. Students are confused about what to recycle and what not to recycle, so they just completely ignore it, and 2. Most students become interested in recycling once they see how it effects them. Because design thinking is human centered and to confirm that students in fact don’t know what to recycle, Margaret and I developed many ways to get in touch with the student population. To begin, Margaret opened a google doc and created questions, some tricky, to print and hand out to be collected later to record results. Together, we concluded that it would take too long to record the results even if the students put in the effort to give it back to us.

Next, we came up with an idea for a sort of game show, where the student spins a Wheel of Fortune type wheel that lands on an object and he/she gets to decide where it goes, in the trash, in the recycling bin, or in the compost pile. We developed this wheel online and ran an internal. An internal is a type of test where you prototype your creation and see how people respond and get their feedback. From this internal and doing some more research, Margaret, the group, and I decided that we didn’t have enough time to get permission from the teachers, or collect enough responses from the students. So, we went back and did something a little more boring, an online survey sent to the whole school. Many students will probably see this in their email and ignore it, but it was the best way to send it to a significant number of people and get at least some responses.

Since we are part of the student population, it makes it harder to step back,  be ethnographers, and find the “hidden obvious”. However, we also don’t have to empathize as much as we are the students and we have that unique perspective. As I am a new student at Mount Vernon, I hold an especially unique perspective, for I have not even noticed the recycling bins in many of my classes. A lot of them are covered with trash bags which seems kind of weird as it has the word “trash” in it instead of the word “recycling”.

The “ideate” step of design thinking is the hardest, it is the base for the rest of the process and currently, my group is stuck on it. We have narrowed down our idea a bit to specify recycling, but we need to narrow it down even more, to a prototype that can be pitched this Thursday. My end goal for this project is the get the students in our school enthusiastic about this topic as well. I want them not to be consumers, but participators to help further sustainability in our school.


3 thoughts on “Ideateing ain’t so easy

  1. Philip,
    I believe this issue is critically important for us as a school, and for us as a planetary people! It’s fascinating to read about the various approaches and prototyping from your group. I wonder how you and your group decided to pivot. What are the specifics and the insights that made you think you needed to shift your progression of your solution?


  2. Philip – We had a 1:1 today where you talked a lot about the current solution your team came up with – I would love to read a follow-up post where you dig a bit deeper into how your group moved from ideating to experimenting. What helped your group get over the “stuck” point?


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