This year I’ve engaged with Tinkercad in a new light which has been fun for both myself and my students. 5th graders are so good at being flexible in their thinking so we delved into Design Thinking to help them develop empathy as designers.
To get them started I adapted the 5 Chair Challenge from the Stanford Design School. I’ve tried to do this activity on using physical materials in years past but found it to be much more successful using Tinkercad, especially since I’m teaching students on Zoom. I would drop the design prompt into the chat and then give them 10 minutes to make a design. Once the time was up, they would go around the Zoom room and share. They LOVE sharing their designs and it is a highlight of the experience.
For example, here’s one of the prompts:
Grandpa is an old man who is achy and sometimes a bit grouchy. He has trouble getting around, so he walks with a cane. He also has difficulty getting into and out of his chair, though he sits in his chair most of the day.
I always end the activity with highlighting how they all had the same prompt but all problem solve and use their imaginations uniquely from each other. When I come into class and tell them we’re doing a design challenge together, they get quite excited. The classrooms also get very quiet because they’re focusing so deeply!
During distance learning, I reached into my bag of tricks to come up with a new unit on Branding for my 7th and 8th graders. I used this unit to also introduce students to the gradient tool, text on a path as well as how to create a scatter brush. After giving them a presentation where we looked at the evolution of logos for iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, and Apple, students were tasked to create their logos for a business I assigned them. Because I’m such a deep believer in iteration, I asked each student to create three versions of their logo to help with their experimentation and to mimic the work graphic designers do.
I gave students businesses such as a fast casual Italian restaurant, coffee shop, travel story and garden store. It’s been fun to see how they’ve used the power of Illustrator to their advantage. I do think my students are getting sick me saying that sometimes our first idea helps to clear our brains out for the next idea which is generally stronger and more interesting. I also shared the font website, dafont.com with them to get them excited about fonts. I’ve definitely spent way too much searching for the perfect font and it was interesting to see which students also saw how important a font design can be while designing a logo.