At the core of any academic curriculum is the idea that we want to develop citizens who are knowledgeable problem-solvers as they tackle the challenges of improving the quality of life for themselves and the world around them. One approach that has been heavily utilized in universities and businesses in recent times is known as Design Thinking. “The Design Thinking process has become increasingly popular over the last few decades becauseit was key to the success of many high-profile, global organizations—companies such as Google, Apple and Airbnb have wielded it to notable effect, for example. This outside the box thinking is now taught at leading universities across the world and is encouraged at every level of business.” 1 While the heart of this unit is the Design Thinking process, I have also connected it to an academic area in which students will be able to apply and practice what they learn. For this, I have chosen life science concepts related to the human body as outlined in both NGSS and Connecticut State Standards. I mention this because you could take the background knowledge and lessons centered on the Design Thinking processes and apply it to other academic areas if desired. However, should you choose to use this unit in its entirety you will find the ideas and content within to be a valuable teaching resource for meeting elementary life science concepts related to the human body. This unit will be divided into two sections: Human-Centric Design Thinking and Understanding Disabilities of the Human Body and How We Might Help Them. The unit, as written, should take about nine to ten 45 minute lessons to complete (time depends on the complexity of the project to be prototyped and tested).
As a unit that follows the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute model, much of what I have written is based on the thirteen two-hour seminar sessions spent with a Yale professor and a small group of about a dozen New Haven teachers, as well as additional outside reading and research. This year, I had the privilege of working with Dr. Anjelica Gonzalez, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Yale University. Our seminar, titled “Human Centered Design of Biotechnology,” explored practices in design thinking through the lens of biotechnology. The discussions, activities, and learning during those seminar sessions are the inspiration for this unit.