Last Friday, third graders hosted a service learning fair, where they presented their research and solution statements on topics of interest, including public health, environmental issues, and the criminal justice system. The event was the culmination of work students have been doing in their SEL class, where they are learning to combine their SEL skills with the design thinking process.
At the start of the project, lower school SEL teacher Lisa Hinshelwood asked students, "Can you think of needs outside of our immediate community that we might study?"
The question sparked a brainstorming session, where students looked outside of their daily lives and immediate Bay Area community to think of issues that affect the broader world. Student ideas covered a wide array of topics, including anti-Asian racism, food waste, and the endangered red panda. From there, Lisa assigned student groups a specific project based on their top three topic preferences. Students spent the first three months of the spring semester diving into the design thinking process: researching the issue, conducting interviews, creating need statements, and exploring potential solutions.
Beyond their growing expertise on their assigned topic, students used this group work as an opportunity to practice SEL skills, including communication, conflict resolution, listening to each others' ideas, dividing up responsibilities, and good digital etiquette. The service learning fair was also a chance for students to practice their live presentation skills. The class invited parents to attend the outdoor event (hosted in the mansion parking lot). Student groups pre-prepared short remarks and encouraged parents to ask follow-up questions about the projects.
Throughout the project, Lisa emphasized, “We can't solve big problems on our own, but small actions by all of us can make a difference!” Below, students share reflections on what they learned through their projects and how it’s shaped their thinking on the ways they can make a positive impact on the world.