Design Thinking Workshop

Summer is an exciting, energetic time for the education team at the Cooper Hewitt. There are week-long Design Camps for primary aged kids (yes they go home at night!), Design Teen Programs, an increase of people through the museum on tours and two rounds of Design Thinking Workshops for teachers.

Recently, the National Design Thinking Workshop brought 30 teachers from around the United States to the Cooper Hewitt for three days of experiences, guest designers and hands on activities. The aim of this professional development was towards taking design into the classroom and each day teachers had time to consolidate the design process by applying it to a challenge or opportunity in their own school or district.

The first day we met some incredibly dedicated teachers who were excited to be at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. We began with Michelle Cheng, our Manager of Professional Development introducing the Cooper Hewitt’s design thinking framework. Teachers then had an opportunity to interact with the Process Lab, defining problems towards social impact design.  We also toured the Museum, further developing the concept of defining problems through the lens of the user of that object.

Jessica Hurwit from Michael Graves Architecture and Design, shared the process her team went through to redesign the hospital wheelchair. This was followed by time for teachers to identify their own school based problem or opportunity and to formulate a “How might we…” question.

Day two we heard about “Risk Taking” from Jason Bacher and “Design is Story Telling” with Ellen Lupton. Laughter echoed through the room throughout these sessions as valuable insights into mindsets that support design thinking were shared. Ruki Ravikum the Director of Education at Cooper Hewitt, provided hands on activities towards understanding the importance of structuring brainstorming towards meaningful connections.

Possibly my favourite presentation of the week was from Tova Kleiner, the winner of the 2017 National Teen Design Competition. This incredibly articulate 15 year old from New York shared her design journey and the importance of empathy driving the process towards relevant solutions. IMG_2620

The final day was dedicated to teachers brainstorming, prototyping and presenting ideas. This was when the magic happened. Each team started the day grappling with an identified problem, brainstorming ways in which to solve it and then filtering these ideas towards a prototyped solution. Teachers collaborated, proposed ideas and weighed up solutions. There were highs and lows, ah-ha moments and visible satisfaction as ideas came together. The presentations were the highlight of my week and each group did an amazing job of going through the design process towards a meaningful solution.


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