No one is as smart as all of us. No one is as curious as all of us. No one is as resourceful, or caring, or inspiring, or creative... you get the point. These phrases are figuratively painted on the walls in the design lab. Students are constantly reminded of the value of collaboration as they work through design challenges. As a member of a team, they learn to better understand how their own unique ideas and skills are a valuable part of the solution.
It's Monday morning, and an orderly line of kindergarteners files into the lab. Suddenly the order leads to chaos as they excitedly quiz the teacher, What are we DOING today?? Are we gonna build something?? What are we gonnnnna doooooo?? Can we take it home??
Order is restored as we settle down on the red carpet to tee up the day's design challenge. They are giddy and some bounce up and down as they learn the rules for the spaghetti challenge. With only 20 pieces of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of tape, and a marsh mellow, build the tallest freestanding tower as possible in 18 minutes, with the marsh mellow at the top. It seems simple at first, but as they get started they discover some of the difficulties. The spaghetti is not as strong as they thought. One meter of tape goes fast. And it turns out, a marsh mellow is heavier than they thought once it's perched at the top of flimsy strands of pasta.
They real challenge, however, is not in the materials, but the fact that a group or 3 or 4 students needs to work together as a team to develop, test and refine their design. As a group, they must design, build, test, fail and repeat as fast and effectively as they can. They need to share their ideas and listen to others'.
As time winds down some towers stand tall and others crumble to the ground. Some teams stand proud, feeling that they have "won". Others look deflated and express that they feel like they have failed.
We debrief and discuss what worked well and where we could have done better. We talk about how the first time we try anything, it doesn't go as well as the second, third, or 200th time we try.
As we recognize that we're all lifelong learners and getting better everyday, we end our design lab session for the day and look forward to the next time, when we'll all surely do a little better.