Sometimes a school wants to think deeply about who they are and who they might become. At Brandeis Hillel Day School in Marin, a group of caring and compassionate educators came together and decided to use design thinking to help them accomplish their goal. We worked with the entire faculty on a day of learning the design thinking process. We then worked with the Innovation Committee, where we used the design thinking process to explore and re-envision the school’s goals.
We began with an aspirational session. Then we designed days that explored the different mindsets that the Innovation Committee had decided were significant. This included collaboration, team-building, and empathy. Constant feedback loops from stakeholders were essential.
As the committee continued its empathy work, they began prototyping ideas to meet the community’s needs. One pivotal project was the redesign of the Faculty Room. When the entire school had to work within constraints and redesign all the spaces, this foundation of empathy became critical. After several months, they were able to successfully redesign their space to meet the needs of the students, teachers, and local community. Design thinking gave them a scaffold to make user-centered decisions and arrive at solutions.
The faculty was not the only group impacted by the infusion of design thinking at BHDS. Lime Design hosted a “Stop, Drop & Design Day” for the K-5 students, who were given the challenge “How Might We Make a Teacher’s Day Better?” They worked in multigrade teams and interviewed their teachers. They heard stories about frantic mornings trying to fit in chores, breakfast and commuting, and after school crunch times filled with soccer practice and music lessons. From this, the students determined teacher needs, brainstormed solutions, and built prototypes. As the students shared their creations, from coffee cups with squares of chocolate on the side, to robot cars, to relaxation chairs, and clocks with 13 hours, it became evident how carefully the children listened. And the smiles on the teachers’ faces when they realized that they their needs had been heard in such insightful ways reminded us that empathy is a reciprocal process that grows each time someone listens and is listened to. The seeds of empathy, creativity and innovation that had scattered across Brandeis’ culture made the day a joyful celebration.