In December, 2017, Palolo Elementary students, parents, staff and community members held a Design Thinking workshop to begin brainstorming how a shared space in the school could evolve into a collaborative arts and STEM center. The concept was to energize students across grades with new tools and innovative resources.
Design Thinking gurus Ian Kitajima, Ravi Pare, and Abe Toma led the Palolo ES group through Oceanit’s workshop to focus participants on creating space that would be truly collaborative and educational, but also inspire stewardship from the children who would care for and learn in the new space. Design Thinking’s human-centered creative problem-solving process provided the “how-to” in order to think “outside the box” for the cross-generational group of excited participants.
The group was asked to empathize with the elementary students who would use the space, define the issues that an arts center space could solve, and then ideate. The group found that arts (drama, music, fine art) must be integrated with STEM subjects and Guidance. This was repeatedly expressed as important through all participants.
“The Design Thinking process provided the students and teachers meaningful opportunities to discuss and share their perspectives and viewpoints and to learn from each other as we collectively addressed a common purpose,” said Palolo Elementary School principal, Holly Kiyonaga, “the process naturally builds a relationship of trust and camaraderie amongst its participants providing a safe venue in which to share, while remaining focused on the needs of the user. The process inspired us to share, discuss, learn, problem solve, create, test, improve, and celebrate!”
On May 16th, 2018 Palolo celebrated the dedication of the new Center for Creative HeARTS (CFCH). The CFCH space includes a newly constructed Learning Garden which includes a weather station, erosion table, dryland taro patch and STEM watering system for the students to manage and learn from. Combining arts with science, the CFCH is adorned with a 70-foot wide Mele Mural painted by students in collaboration with local artists.
“We began with a common purpose, but learned through the Design Thinking process that we had uncommon ideas and perspectives relating to design, space, color, use, etc. What was especially interesting was that each of the (CFCH) prototypes was substantially supported with sound rationale and distinctive purpose – comfort, convenience, adequacy of resources, work space, etc. – and was not random, ” said Holly Kiyonaga.
The result was the ultimate shared learning space for the entire elementary school. Grades K-1 will care for and operate the weather station; grades 2-3 have stewardship of the erosion table; and, grades 4-5 will manage the watering system and taro patch. As students move up to the next grade levels they will teach the incoming classes how to care for the equipment and stations.
Oceanit was honored to be a part of the Center for the Creative HeARTS process and to help jumpstart a flow of great ideas that have now been realized in the CFCH space. We hope that Design Thinking and the CFCH can continue to inspire the students, teachers, and parents of Palolo ES for generations to come. Read more about the Center for Creative HeARTS here.
You can visit the Palolo Elementary website here: https://www.paloloelementary.k12.hi.us/