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Using Design Thinking to Leave No Right Brain Behind in the Classroom

The goal is to foster excitement and engagement amongst 9-12th graders by bridging arts and sciences.

Something cool is brewing in Los Angeles that could create a lasting, global effect on creativity in education.

Recently, No Right Brain Left Behind joined forces with verynice, a design consultancy, to form SLÖJD, a workshop that aims to bring the best and brightest creative thinkers in Los Angeles to create a tangible product that will inspire creativity in education. As an organization, NRBLB's purpose is to generate breakthrough innovation that brings creativity into classrooms. We do this by mobilizing some of the smartest and most passionate problem solvers in the creative industries, and know that if we pair design centered thinking with a significant problem to tackle, the results can be astonishing. When I met Matthew Manos from verynice, I realized our philosophy on the role of design as an agent of social change matches up, and I love how they donate 50 percent of their work to nonprofits. After our first meeting, we knew we had to work together.

The goal of SLÖJD—which by the way means "woodshop foundry" in Swedish—is to prototype a product or methodology that can foster excitement and engagement amongst 9-12th graders by bridging arts and sciences. In addition to inspiring students, we also want to enable teachers to leverage creative ways to teach their day-to-day subjects.

We'll accomplish this through a six-day work session in May that will invite 8 brilliant design-thinkers from Los Angeles to build, test, and iterate upon prototypes that will pave way for breakthrough methodologies in the middle and high school levels. At the end of the session, the design team will present the prototype and work leading up to it, to a group of esteemed critics for feedback and next steps. Participants will walk away with their name on a working prototype as well as a plan for moving forward with the product in an educational environment.

We have a few tricks up our sleeves, too. During the workshop, we will introduce secret guests, new challenges, and innovative technologies. And participants will be confronted with a number of creative constraints that will require them to think on their feet in order to scrape ideas together with minimal resources. I don't want to reveal too much, but let's just say there might be plenty of cardboard and magical tech gadgets floating around in our workshop space.

What happens with the prototype? We've forged a partnership with Green Dot Public Schools, so it might be implemented at one of their campuses as a pilot program. We have hopes of further implementation across Los Angeles—and maybe even the world—in order to help students think creatively in and out of the classroom.

This workshop also exemplifies the NRBLB ethos and the role design can play in solving big challenges. Social innovation does not need years to be implemented. Instead, it's really about how fast you can get something off the ground and into the real world where the hard work really starts. My hope is that we can demonstrate the speed of design centered problem solving within a hefty time constraint, manifest an outcome in the real world, and ultimately set an elevated standard for creative excellence.

For Matt, SLÖJD taps both into personal interests, and the interests of his studio, verynice. Growing up, Matt's mother was a teacher, and he was always inspired by her ability to make the most "boring" subjects fun by leveraging art and design principles in her curriculum as a tool for helping her students learn complex topics in an accessible manner.

Fast forward a decade or so to where we are today and Matt, inspired by his mom's career, has now led workshops and classes for a wide range of age groups from kindergarten to graduate school students. Representative of his passion for connecting the fields of design and business, in the summer of 2012, Matthew pioneered the first class on entrepreneurship at the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture. As a design and innovation studio, verynice regularly holds workshops in the community as a method of human-centered design.

Here's where we need your help: Our team will be made up of eight multi-disciplinary design thinkers from Los Angeles. We will invite six participants, but the other two members will be decided by you, the GOOD community. To make this easy, click here and fill out the form at the bottom of the page to nominate yourself or a superb L.A.-based designer friend to be part of our team. The deadline for nominations is April 28th and we'll be kicking off the workshop on April 30th. Skills we are looking for? Movers and shakers from any design discipline with hands on design and/or technology skills, and a strong passion for building things that matter.

Both Matt, and I feel that creativity is lacking where it's needed the most, in the classroom. We are setting out to make sure that no right brain is left behind, and that the world gets a bit more verynice as a result.

Click here to add nominating yourself or another designer to reimagine creativity in education to your GOOD "to-do" list.

Image courtesy of NRBLB

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