MAKING AND DESIGN THINKING AT THE HARBOR SCHOOL
December 6, 2018

Dear Harbor Families,

Back in August, you may recall that I wrote about our professional development partnership with the KID Museum, as we embarked on a year with the theme of innovating, making, and designing. Well, we’ve been busy since then!

Our teachers at Harbor have been honing their skills at facilitating learning through a design thinking model, specifically around the Harbor School design cycle - EXPLORE. CREATE. ITERATE. In our Makerspace, kids apply learning dispositions of creativity, collaboration, empathy, perspective taking, and perseverance through a series of design challenges. The teacher’s role is different than that of a more traditional classroom; we are skillful facilitators of a process that is driven by student agency, interest, and ideas. This happens only through thoughtful planning, materials preparation, questioning techniques, and observation skills. It is a skill set that requires constant attention.

I believe that, like classroom learning, the most meaningful professional development happens through hands-on experiences, collaboration, and personal reflection. With this in mind, we asked Desiree and Amanda, our colleagues from the KID Museum, to work with us to design a professional experience for our teachers at Harbor.

On the morning of October 24, Desiree and Amanda demonstrated facilitation techniques through model lessons, while small groups of teachers observed their lessons, using an observation tool designed specifically for the Harbor design cycle. In the weeks between that day and yesterday, teachers worked collaboratively in cross-grade level groups to plan a demonstration lesson. On December 5, the roles were reversed and our teachers presented their lesson in front of Desiree and Amanda. The reflection discussions that followed were rich indeed. Ask your child’s teacher about it!

Here’s a brief description of yesterday’s lessons:

  • Preschool Teachers: After exploring the problem of missing door stops in our school building and looking at the various designs that we already use, preschool 4 students individually designed their own door stop and tested each one on their own classroom door.
  • JK and Kindergarten Teachers: After learning about seasons and hibernation, and reading Bear Snores On, JK students designed their own bear shelters that would be dry, safe, and warm for a winter hibernation. They worked in groups of 3 and tested their design with a little toy bear at the end of the lesson.
  • Grades 1 and 2 Teachers: After reading The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale and learning some key vocabulary about architecture, Grade 2 students worked in pairs to build a structure that the pigs could live in and the wolf couldn't blow down. Grade 2 kids shared their designs and have plans to test them, simulating wind with a fan.

For each of the classes, the next, very important, step is to iterate their design, to discover in what way they might make it different or better.

And... the learning and collaboration continues. Our professional day in February will be spent at the KID Museum - and we can’t wait! This winter, come and see what all of our excitement is about. Mark your calendars for Saturday, January 26, and bring the family to a Harbor School Day at the KID Museum. Thursday, February 7 is of course, Spiral Night, when Harbor will become a "museum" to showcase our students' work as innovators and inventors. Then, on Tuesday, February 26, we’ll be hosting a Parent Session about Design Thinking in our very own Makerspace, so you can engage with our design cycle as your children do each week. We hope you can join us for all of these events!

Warm regards,



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Harbor School