Sunday, February 11, 2018

A visit with Pan Clothing & a new design challenge

On Friday our school hosted the founders of Pan Clothing, Jacky and Tanner. It was a great visit, and our students enjoyed learning more about them and their mission to eliminate illiteracy.

They are both seniors at Hampden-Sydney College, and they founded Pan to improve the lives of elementary students in Haiti. They sell clothing, and for each item they will provide 5 textbooks to students in Haiti.

Through this process our students also learned about Haiti, and they compared & contrasted their lives in Charlottesville with students their age in Haiti.

Students in our third grade (Ms. Fagan & Ms. Graybill) and fourth grade (Ms. Wright & Ms. Roesch) classes spent time interviewing Jacky & Tanner. This was part of the Discover phase, which is the first stage of the DEEPdt (Discover, Empathize, Experiment, Produce) design thinking process. The students interviewed Jacky & Tanner to try to determine their needs, what they needed for their company, and what students in Haiti needed. The students took notes on lots of post it notes, and then they used graphic organizers to sort, to classify, and to organize their thoughts in common themes.

The students had a great first visit with Pan Clothing, and we are looking forward to their next two visits over the coming two months. The goal will be for our students to move through all 4 phases of DEEPdt process. The next steps will for students to Empathize what the needs are of Pan Clothing, and finally for them to Experiment and Produce solutions for these needs.

Our students are excited to design for Pan and to help students in Haiti.

We'll continue to share updates from this exciting new design thinking challenge with Pan in the coming months.

Students watching a video of Pan in Haiti

Students taking notes

Students classifying and organizing notes

Asking questions to Jacky & Tanner

Categorizing notes

Tanner answering questions from a design team

Classifying notes

Organizing a design team's notes

Collaborating and communicating

Discussing different points of views

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Jump Rope & Hoops for Heart kick off

We're proud once again to partner with the American Heart Association for the Jump Roper & Hoops for Heart program. Our students will be fundraising over the coming weeks to raise money to raise funds for heart research.

Recently we had our kick off assembly, which included inspiring words from the American Heart Association, ways that our students can keep their heart healthy, teachers jumping rope, and a basketball contest between Mr. Johnson & Mr. Saunders.

Check out some of the pictures from the assembly, and if you're able please partner with our students for this important cause!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Design Thinking with and for teachers

At Baker-Butler we use an interdisciplinary methodology for problem solving called Design Thinking (dt) that we have discussed in several previous blog posts.

We used design thinking because we want our students to be empathetic and creative problem solvers, and to become flexible and interdisciplinary thinkers. We believe that the design thinking methodology provides a clear and easily-adaptable framework that our students can use to develop their soft skills or the 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Our designers move through the 4 phases of DEEP design thinking (DEEPdt): Discover, Empathize, Experiment, and Produce. 

Example of 2nd grade students designing to support students in a new classroom that formed after school had started

The overall goal of design thinking is to meet the needs of the person(s) you're designing for and to solve their problem(s) creatively. We like the term "human-centered problem solving" for this process. Part of the dt framework includes many powerful graphic organizers to help organize our thoughts and to make our thinking visible. We use Post It notes during the process because they provide a format for visible thinking and an easy way to group ideas together.

4th grade students brainstorming how to improve the end of the school day

At our school we have often looked to the incredible staff of Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta, and in particular its Institute for Innovation (MVIFI), for guidance, ideas, and support. We also look to amazing people such as Mary Cantwell (check our her website: as well Elgin Cleckley and Jennie Chiu from the University of Virginia. All of these groups and people have been -and continue to be- instrumental in our progress in using DEEPdt.

In addition to using this process with our students, we also use it with our staff and adults. We've used it with our school leadership team to review our school's progress and improvement plans, with our new teachers to help them thrive in their first year with us, and with our whole school to discuss how to help struggling students.

Baker-Butler summer leadership team using MVIFI DEEPdt playbook

Baker-Butler summer leadership team

New Baker-Butler teachers during our New Teacher Orientation

New Baker-Butler teachers during our New Teacher Orientation

New Baker-Butler teachers presenting ways they can thrive their first year

Baker-Butler teachers designing ways to support struggling students

Baker-Butler teachers designing ways to support struggling students

Baker-Butler teachers designing ways to support struggling students

One of the other ways that we are using it right now is surrounding our Mid Year Review (MYR) process, which is when we plan out how we are going to look at our school and students' performance and what changes we'll need to make for the second half of the year. We have a school-wide jigsaw process in analyzing data, in which teachers are both presenting their own data as well as providing feedback to each other (individual puzzle pieces), and then all of this are then synthesized at the school level (putting the puzzle together).

One of the ways that we've used DEEPdt in this process -and especially one of its graphic organizers called 4 Corners- is by having our school leadership team provide feedback on the overall MYR process. We used design thinking because we want to ensure that we take into account our teachers' thoughts and perspectives when we're designing a large shared school experience such as the Mid Year Review. We used DEEPdt to gather their feedback on 4 key areas of our MYR process via colored Post Its: what they liked (blue), what they didn't understand (pink), what could be improved (lime), and what new ideas we should consider (orange). We had each teacher leader fill our his/her own sheet, and then they combined into groups to discuss the similarities and differences. The next step was that the principal, Steve Saunders, clustered all of the same category (e.g., new ideas to consider) together to look at trends. Finally, we then use this feedback to make changes to our MYR process for the whole school, which will begin on January 18th.

One teacher's feedback on the MYR process

Some of the individual teacher 4 Corners forms

4 corners clustered together by areas and colors for spotting trends

Aspects about the process that teachers like

New ideas to consider

These are just some of the examples that we use design thinking throughout Baker-Butler. We hope that this gives a quick glimpse into some of the ways that design thinking's tenets, framework, and culture continue to help us to improve our school.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Holiday Sing Along

We had a great school holiday sing along the last day of school before winter break. Check out the pictures below for the grade levels singing and the teachers' performance!