5th Graders Become Bilingual Urban Planners

By Lower and Intermediate School Spanish Teacher Karen Liszka

Fifth graders put on their design thinking caps to combine their Central Topic studies of the power of observation with their Spanish language, culture and design thinking skills.

In 5th grade Social Studies, students dove into the Roman and Medieval worlds. In Spanish, to compare and contrast their learning about ancient civilizations, students studied the modern city of today. Using skills from their Central Topic studies to understand various points of view, students employed the tools of slow looking and empathetic observation to think about a modern city from an urban planning point of view. Then, they used a set protocol from the Stanford d.School of the five design thinking steps (Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Evaluate) to design and construct a model city of their own for student users. Designers interviewed their peers to understand what their ideal modern city would have (Empathize). Next, students used the data from the interviews to think about how the space might fit the users and came up with ideas to make that happen (Define and Ideate). To begin their prototypes, students not only looked at commercial spaces, but also thought about diverse housing options, green spaces and public transportation to create their designs (Prototype). In the end, after receiving feedback (Evaluate), all three 5th grade sections combined their models to make one, large urban development.

To take their collaborations a step further, 5th graders expanded ideas and stretched their designs by creating city blocks using 3D design tools and working together in a virtual design space using the MinecraftEdu platform. Students created their building exteriors in groups. MinecraftEdu is a great tool for students to engage in online 3D architectural design in a collaborative, shared space. As they worked, students talked about how their exteriors fit their users’ needs. In addition, 5th graders built up their digital citizenship skills by designing, communicating and creating together in a safe virtual world.

To see pictures of the students’ process and final product, click here.
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.