Students Design Solutions to Real School-Based Challenges

Jun. 01, 2017

​On May 3, more than 100 students at the CBE's Student Voice Design Challenge learned that challenges are really just opportunities for design. In a redesign of the annual Student Voice Symposium, 76 students, representing 38 different middle, junior high, and high schools, along with 27 students from the Chief Superintendent’s Student Advisory Councils tackled one of three challenges:

  • How might we use cell phones as learning tools in our schools?
  • How might we manage stress so students can better learn?
  • How might we create a school culture so every student is included?

In the kickoff to the evening, Trustee Pamela King spoke of her belief in students as the problem-solvers of our biggest challenges. Chief Superintendent David Stevenson echoed Trustee King’s belief, adding that considering the voice of students is at the heart of what he does as a superintendent. Following the introduction, the students split off into three groups to tackle one of the design challenges.

Students from Grades 7-12 worked collaboratively to understand the problem, define what needed to be solved, ideate many ways they could address the challenge and prototype one solution that they felt had promise. The design thinking framework provided students with an outline that let them collaborate deeply with students they had only just met, taking a deep look at a problem from all sides.

For example, one group of students unpacked the social media design challenge by considering what aspects of social media make it a force for connection and relationship-building, and which aspects can interfere with learning. The solution they designed was a social media-inspired series of lessons for young people to help them develop responsible digital citizenship strategies.

Another group considered how damaging cliques can be when trying to build an inclusive school community. They thought that redesigning the school cafeteria to engineer situations where students would meet new people could create opportunities to build empathy amongst students.

The Student Voice Design Challenge proved that students can work together to solve problems that they face. Student participants were encouraged to take their idea back to their school and share it with their school administration. Perhaps some of the student ideas will soon be in action in some of our schools!