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  • This Preschool Gives Us a Peek How They Teach Kids to Solve Problems

    The process teaches kids to think outside the box, take risks, and have empathy
    by Amabelle Cariño .
This Preschool Gives Us a Peek How They Teach Kids to Solve Problems
PHOTO BY iStock
  • A good preschool will always see children as true masters of wonder and imagination. These characteristics are what makes them natural creators, inventors, innovators, and problem-solvers. But how do you develop and nurture it?

    At Miriam College Child Study Center, it has what it calls a "design thinking" approach to problem-solving. It's a process often employed by inventors and designers to see a problem from all angles and find alternative ways to make the design serve its user better.

    It sounds heavy for kids below 5 years old, but it's really just about giving students opportunities to discover and explore new ideas, which requires empathy and collaboration to create.

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    Here are a few ways we apply design thinking in our school and what the kids learn.

    Children learn to think out of the box

     One design thinking challenge for our kindergarteners was based on the story book, But That Won’t Make Me Sleep by Annie Pacaña-Lumbao, which is about a girl named Maya who is having a hard time going to sleep.

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    After discussing the story and identifying the problem, the children collaborated to come up with ideas how to help Maya sleep. Using readily available scrap materials, the children imagined what they called a “Rainbow Radio” that would play lullabies for Maya. Another group made an elaborate "bed machine" that has a built-in massager, story book holder for bedtime stories, built-in radio for soothing music, and a video camera for Maya’s parents to monitor if she is still awake or asleep. Giving children the freedom to imagine and carry out their ideas risk-free allows them the space for creativity and ingenuity.

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    Children learn to take risks and build grit

     Another design thinking mission for our kindergarteners was based on the fairytale Rapunzel. The children discussed the story and thought about ways how to help Rapunzel escape from the tower. The children brainstormed and tested out their different prototypes of parachutes, tower slides, zip ladders, etc. With some prototypes more successful than the others, the children made a list of how they could improve on their creations.

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    By allowing children to take the lead and giving them a safe environment to try out their prototypes and then repeat the process if it fails, they get to understand that failure is a necessary step to create something remarkable.

    Children learn empathy

     Every year, we have a school-wide initiative encouraging the students to generate big, bold ideas that champion innovation. For this challenge, our young students wanted to learn more about an underprivileged community in Sitio Lipata, Caramoan. The teachers went to the community and returned to the school by showing what these Sitio Lipata preschoolers didn't have compared to the Miriam students. Not only did they not have a playground, thet didn't "tinker lab" like those from Miriam.

     

    preschool curriculum
    Yes, that's the playground these preschool kids designed for an underprivileged community.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Miriam College Child Study Center
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    Our preschool students were so affected by what they watched and heard they decided to design a playground for Sitio Lipata with the help of their teachers. The design made use of readily accessible materials like tree stumps and old tires. The kids also designed portable "tinker-kits" filled with materials for tinkering and creating. As of this writing, the playground is being built at Sitio Lipata and the tinker-kits are being produced and completed for the children’s use.

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    When children build an understanding of what others are feeling, they also begin to understand how their own actions can impact others. This encourages compassion and the drive to help others who are in need.

    It is amazing how design thinking not only gives preschoolers the opportunity to be problem-solvers, but to be problem-seekers as well. By inviting these young minds to engage in design thinking, we are equipping them with a mindset that encourages them to ask questions, empathize, work together, take risks, try out their ideas, and persevere.

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    What a wonderful world this would be with compassionate problem-seekers and creative problem-solvers that can make a huge difference in this world.

    Teacher Amabelle "Mobsy" Cariño has been an early childhood educator for over 20 years, having taught both in the Philippines and in the USA. She now serves as the principal of Miriam College Child Study Center. Her biggest mission is to help children become compassionate lifelong learners and problem-solvers who can make the world a better place.

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