Design For Change at Lakeland Elementary Middle School, Baltimore

Design for Change is a global movement that empowers young people with the design thinking process in order to drive positive social change in their community. It serves as a means to introduce a simplified version of the design process to young people in the form of four simple steps: FEEL any problem that affects you, IMAGINE a way to make it better, DO an act of change and SHARE your story of change with the world.

This 4 month project was a joint collaboration with the Center for Social Design at MICA and Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore. Third and fourth graders saw the problem of rock-throwing in their Lakeland neighborhood and decided to use the design process to take the first step towards addressing it. Using the Design for Change framework, I created customized sessions for the students that were designed for them to build empathy, work collaboratively, build their ideas and share with their community. 

The video below is a manifestation of our project where the kids talk about their process and journey.


Step One: FEEL

The first step of the design process for the kids was to understand their neighborhood of Lakeland, immerse themselves and build empathy by speaking to members of their community. We conducted a neighborhood walk and mapped out bright spots and pain points that we saw around us. We tried to identify various problems or issues that we could address. But this wasn't enough, we needed to also speak to the people because that's what the human-centered design process is about. We crafted interview questions, and then interviewed some members of the community, young and old.

After collecting our research, we went through it to identify common themes and patterns. Most people spoke of how Lakeland is a tight-knit community and everyone helps each other. The problem we identified was rock-throwing that was causing harm, damage to people's cars, home and property. It also sets bad examples for younger kids in the school and neighborhood. Lack of continuing after school opportunities, parental supervision and guidance are some reasons why older kids make bad choices.



In the second stage of the process, we worked on brainstorming as many ideas as we could. Together we decided given our strengths we could take the first step by creating awareness in our community. A lot of the ideas that emerged were about uniting together to send a message about what is right and wrong. We further brainstormed on how to do that and the best way we could was to create a youtube video to share in our community and beyond. We hope it helps people to think about the consequences of their actions, and act from a place of love and kindness- not violence.

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Step Three: DO

In this phase, we worked to break down what we wanted to say in our video and how we wanted to say it. We created a script and storyboard for the final video we would share with our community. In groups, the kids worked on different parts of making a video and they learned basics of stop-motion animation, iPad animation and voice recording. I think their biggest challenge was to understand how to communicate visually and verbally in a short video format.

Step Four: SHARE

The kids showcased their video at a community gathering the comprised of neighbors, friends, family and leaders. The video was also shown to all classes the very next and also shared on the school's social media to reach a wider audience. Additionally, the kids also plan to show it at their annual fair and encourage more people to acknowledge and join the pledge to make Lakeland a better, safer place.

The video was also submitted to Design For Change's Global Design Challenge that collects similar stories of community change and impact from students all over the world.


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