Fairy Tale Design Thinking in the 1st Grade

by Integrated Learning and Information Services Specialist Mary Catherine Coleman
During the past several months, 1st grade students have been diving deep into different fairy tales using the design thinking process. Each class explored a different story: 1G read different versions of “The Three Little Pigs,” 1B “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and 1J “Little Red Riding Hood.”
As part of the empathy stage of the design thinking process, each class collected data and information about the stories. Students looked at the characters, setting, problems and solutions to help better understand the stories and the characters’ issues.
Next, students moved to the define stage of design thinking, sorting the data they collected to determine the problems the characters were dealing with. For “The Three Little Pigs,” students identified issues like the pigs needing a better education to understand how to build a sturdy house, the pigs needing to work better together and the wolf being unfairly judged for being a wolf and eating what wolves eat. Those reading “Goldilocks” identified problems that included the main character needing to learn more manners, the bears requiring a better cooking system and the bears needing a security system. The “Little Red Riding Hood” group defined problems including Grandma’s need for better healthcare so she wouldn’t get sick, the wolf’s need for a different food source and Little Red’s need for a safe passage to Grandma’s house.
The ideate stage followed, wherein students worked in small groups to determine which problem they were going to tackle. Then they brainstormed ideas to help the characters, followed by the design and planning of their solutions. At each step of the process, teachers reminded students of their “collaborator qualities” and how to work together so that everyone had a role in the project and planning.
For the prototype stage, students built their solutions using different techniques and materials in the TIDES garage, ranging from cardboard to duct tape, from puff balls to pipe cleaners. Teachers introduced students to 3D design and printing and guided them in using Tinkercad software to design and print elements of their solution.
The final step involved the whole 1st grade sharing their projects with one another. Classes gathered in the library and moved from station to station to take in the prototypes and designs. Prototypes included a Talk it Out phone for Goldilocks and the Three Bears so they could get along better. One group designed a Wolf Restaurant for the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood” so he could have a place to get food. One group designed a group housing complex for the three little pigs and the wolf to live together and have their own refrigerator so they would have their own food and live in peace.
First graders did an amazing job on this project! They were creative and critical thinkers in examining the stories and defining the issues facing the characters. They worked well together to ideate and build their prototypes and were thoughtful in their comments on their classmates’ work.

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.