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When Should Students Learn About the Design Thinking Process?

The design thinking process is a trending topic and idea that’s taking over in education. It’s well-known in academia and in the business world today, and now, many teachers are trying to learn how to implement design thinking for kids. The approach is taking off in the classrooms for problem-solving methods, particularly in middle and high schools.

What is Design Thinking?

Let’s dive in and explore the idea of design thinking. Design thinking is an educational approach that stresses creative problem-solving for students with the added value of an entrepreneurial outlook. When it comes to design thinking for kids, it’s a framework that can lead to more entrepreneurship — or at least, to a more entrepreneurial way of facing challenges in the future. Among companies, design thinking is an approach that’s causing a true buzz with many leading companies including Apple, Google, Samsung, and GE. These companies across the globe have rapidly adopted the design thinking process for innovative solutions.

Why design thinking for kids? Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future

Knowledge Without Borders explains it as such: Our brains need and search for context. Who likes to memorize large quantities of information with only a fuzzy context? Learning without context can be difficult for kids. Design thinking allows them to find all kinds of associations and possible connections among different pieces of information instead of memorizing them as separate segments…Design thinking should be on the educational agenda. Sure, it’s messier than pre-packaged standardized assessments. But design thinking offers kids golden opportunities for engagement and creativity — both prerequisites for real learning.

How Students Can Learn to Use Design Thinking

This methodology is worth considering for our students, in whom executive function skills such as planning and organizing are at a formative stage. Children need to be both adaptable and flexible in order to thrive, considering the rapidly changing world we live in. The future is about creators, innovators, and problem-solvers. It is not just about their traditional education system that includes learning for the test and getting rewarded for the correct answers.

Design Thinking is one of the best tools to prepare our kids to face unseen situations with confidence, optimism, and creativity. Undoubtedly, the powerful framework of design thinking for kids can effectively also help teachers and parents in raising lifelong creators.

The design thinking process requires that students immerse themselves in the experience of those who are impacted by a particular social challenge. Students then identify the root cause of that challenge, redefine it, and brainstorm alternative ways to approach it - constantly making adjustments based on feedback and lessons learned. If you consider the process, it’s something we as adults must experience on a daily basis, just to live and survive in the world. Life’s challenges force us to become avid problem-solvers and re-adjust ideas and expectations from day to day. It’s simply learning how to maneuver through life as best as we can, while growing to become wiser and more efficient along the way. Why not introduce this phenomenon to our students in the classrooms sooner rather than later as they grow to become adults themselves in this thing called ‘life’?

How to Implement Design Thinking in the Classroom

So, how soon is too soon to implement Design Thinking into our classrooms? An article by the Tech Advocate explains “design thinking can be used to enhance the learning experience and outcomes among pre-school and kindergarten pupils. This kind of thinking involves a fluid interactive and dynamic approach to solving problems. Young children are masters of imagination and intuition. They have not been exposed to stereotypes and corrupted knowledge that tends to kill creativity in adults.

In fact, it is easy to incorporate design thinking in their natural way of learning. Young learners tend to be creative and are also inquisitive. In a learning environment, they will ask questions that are beyond their level of thinking.” So, it’s all in the hands of educators and teachers who stand at the forefront to grow this methodology among our young children and make the classroom experience a theater for innovation, creativity, imagination, and intuition.

The Design for Change framework (DFC) helps educators really get started on mapping out a plan for the process and effectively introducing it into their classrooms. Take the first step today as a teacher and get your students, as young as elementary school age, to get started in this great learning style.

Design Thinking for kids methodology: Feel, Imagine, Do, Share

The Design for Change methodology is a simple, four-step, student-driven framework to power Design Thinking in the classroom. The stages of this framework are Feel, Imagine, Do, and Share:

  1. First, students build empathy and understanding of a particular social challenge.

  2. Next, they brainstorm creative solutions.

  3. Then, they lead a change project.

  4. Finally, students reflect on their actions, seek feedback and share their story of change.

Teaching and learning can be full of its own set of challenges and struggles. Design thinking is also often unpredictable because it is influenced by factors that are out of an educator’s control. Knowing this, educators are better equipped to maximize its potential. Design is messy, and Design for Change embraces this and helps every step of introducing design thinking into our schools and classrooms with our free, useful platform for student changemakers.

Design thinking is a process desired among all those who work to bring education to our children from day to day. It’s essentially never too soon to introduce design thinking to your students, whether in middle school or high school. The idea behind design thinking for kids remains timeless and offers an approach that has no expiration date when it comes to our youth and students. When we help our students develop their design thinking mindsets, we prepare them to use the knowledge from our courses to solve problems in a meaningful way based upon empathy and understanding the needs of others.


Design for Change is the #1 Platform for Student-Led Change!


We provide a free web and mobile platform for educators to bring the Design for Change program into their classrooms, in person or virtually.

Social Change Podcasts for Students

Engage your students in learning about social issues, causes, and topics relevant to their lives, and open discussions on ideas that matter

Professional Development Courses

Get certified as an expert educator in design thinking, or complete Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) training for educators

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