Transition from World Geography to Global Studies as PBL via Design Thinking

Your Name and Title: Todd Wass

School, Library, or Organization Name: The Lovett School

Co-Presenter Name(s): Ben Posten

Country from Which You Will Present: United States of America

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience (such as primary school teachers, high school administrators, students, etc.): Middle and High School Social Studies Teachers, and Curriculum Specialists

Short Session Description (one line): Transition from World Geography to Global Studies as PBL via Design Thinking

Full Session Description:


A year and a half ago, The Lovett Middle School decided to make a change in its social studies curricular model. Seventh grade had been devoted to a traditional World Geography text - traveling the regions of the world learning about geographic features, countries, economies, populations, and some global issues. However, over the years, the curriculum had become relatively stagnant lacking relevant and engaging problems for students.


In 7th grade Global Studies classes, students do not just memorize facts and recall information from a textbook; they discover real-world problems through creative “hands-on” activities, especially in examining such global issues as food access, health initiatives, population, water security, shelter, urbanization, education, technology, transportation, human rights, and environmental concerns. In this way class instruction provides students with the opportunity to tackle authentic problems from local, national, and global perspectives.


Using a Design Thinking model, active student participation is encouraged through observations, brainstorming, research, experimentation, and above all, collaborating through teamwork. In the Design Thinking model students are encouraged to think “outside the box” and through their explorations see the world in new ways. Teacher-created mini-challenges give the students opportunities to develop critical-thinking skills and to solve problems that exist beyond the classroom. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage students to take risks and to create.


Through the process of Design Thinking, students utilize their creativity in developing physical prototypes that would eventually represent their ideas and inventions that could conceivably change the world in which we live. Students use material to build, fabricate, design, invent – and innovate – with an expansive assortment of materials at hand. A wide variety of tools and materials at hand enable the creative impulses of our students to naturally flow, and help their “can-do” attitude come through in the various stages of prototyping.


The first year of our Design Thinking model implementation (Design in Motion) occurred in 2011-2012 school year. Empowered by their decision-making abilities, students are motivated by being able to choose paths of study that are of relevance to their lives. By drawing upon their interests, talents, and experiences, these authentic learning activities help students become more fully aware of their global connections.


The culminating experience for the Design in Motion Brings Innovative Ideas to the World unit involve a public presentation of the student’s research project, and the accompanying prototype that represents the physical manifestation of the innovative idea developed. Students give a 5-7 minute presentation to classmates, teachers, and parents, and use their handmade prototypes to demonstrate how an idea, however humble in origin, could flourish through creative prototyping into a life-changing innovation.


Follow the link to our presentation:

Transition from World Geography to Global Studies as PBL via Design...

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Sounds like a meaningful presentation - with some teeth. I look forward to it.


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