Designing the Future of Education

Date Posted: 05.16.2016

By Sandy Mendler

This is an exciting time of innovation in school design, and there is not one size that fits all. Our broad work with K-12 schools and environmental education facilities consistently demonstrates the need to address 21st Century Learning in ways that are tailored to the needs and educational process of each institution.

At Mithun, we know that our best work comes through partnering and co-creating with thoughtful committed clients. We gain valuable insights working directly with students and educators in collaborative programming and design sessions, exploring spaces needed for teaching and learning that are flexible and relevant to support diverse needs. Our commitment to collaboration and design empathy led us to partner with the founders of Leadership+Design (L+D), a program that focuses on the intersection of design thinking and education.

L+D works with educators to help envision and design new teaching methods. Designing the future of education is a creative task – it is not the same as designing a building or a landscape, but it is not entirely different either. Through our work with L+D we have gained important insights into the challenges faced by educators, staff and administrators seeking innovative strategies to transform educational experiences to ones that engage students in hands-on learning, teach collaboration and teamwork, and build skills of grit and resilience.

As part of our ongoing partnership, Mithun has hosted bootcamps and education programs in our Seattle and San Francisco offices to uncover the power of design thinking and its relevance to education. These activities have not only provided valuable insights into the priorities and needs of educators in the spaces they utilize, but has also helped our team to place human empathy and experience at the center of our own design process.

During L+D workshops and bootcamps, we have had numerous opportunities to witness the sense of empowerment that students, faculty and staff gain from their training in design thinking. Facilitators lead exercises in the collaborative design process, which uses different “muscles” than those used for individual mastery. It is great fun to see workshop participants’ excitement as they work in teams to practice improvisation and build on each other’s ideas. They also learn to research through listening with empathy, to better appreciate the needs of others – as needs define design challenges and form the foundation for design thinking. Finally comes the joy and exuberance of working with paper, tape, shoeboxes, glue guns and popsicle sticks. Educators and students alike find inspiration in the testing and modeling of ideas through prototyping.

Design thinking is a process that can be learned and practiced. We are inspired by the creativity and passion we have seen in our educator clients, and look forward to future collaborations.