Inquiry and Innovation (i2)
Design thinking at Echo Horizon isn’t about product, it’s about process. It’s not about making a robot or an invention—it’s about the problem you are designing for and your approach to solving it. And if you don’t succeed the first time? That’s ok! You learn by trying, and at Echo Horizon, the emphasis is on figuring things out.
During i2 time, the learning is student-driven and teacher-facilitated. The projects students engage in enhance and support classroom learning. Dr. Patterson and Mrs. Olivera-Hillway (who supports the use of coding, robotics, and artistic elements) lead learning in the Makerspace and the STEAMspace. In addition, students use existing dedicated spaces for visual art, dance, theatre, music, gardening, cooking, and digital media to develop their imagination, creativity, problem-solving skills, empathy, and self-reliance.
For young children, Dr. Patterson may start a workshop with a video in which characters present a problem and how it affects them. Then each child chooses a character and designs a solution for the problem. Creating a product based on someone else’s needs ends up being a profound and meaningful experience for children. Dr. Patterson says that you can ask Pre-K students to draw a car and they will spend two minutes doing so. But if they choose a character to design for, they will spend 40 minutes drawing, because it’s about their choice and interests. And when students do creative work together, they get to know one another better and appreciate differences.
Placing design thinking and the needs of others at the center of i2 empowers students to invent things that go beyond our expectations—or our imaginations. Last year, Dr. Patterson’s 5th grade students connected with a class in Portland, Oregon. They learned that they share some of the same problems, such as getting to school on time or keeping siblings out of their rooms. Dr. Patterson’s students created solutions—from pillows with embedded alarms to automated sibling management systems!
Dr. Patterson emphasizes that it’s normal for students to get frustrated when projects don’t work and need to be rethought. That too is part of the process. It’s what happens when students don’t have step-by-step instructions. He and the students are never working on a short-term project. The project is really about their year together and their time at the school. Together, Dr. Patterson and Echo Horizon students build learning experiences that go beyond “done.”