Innovation
STEM and Technology

STEM Fellow and Design Thinking

STEM Fellow

The St. Margaret’s STEM fellow is an endowed position charged with paving the future of the expanding STEM curriculum by developing and deepening learning experiences with a strong emphasis on technology and engineering, focusing on robotics, software apps, engineering and entrepreneurship.  The fellow is responsible for carefully allocating endowment resources for the betterment of STEM education for students in Preschool through Upper School.
 
The STEM fellowship fund stands as a physical representation of St. Margaret’s commitment to advance STEM education at St. Margaret’s.  The fund was established to provide financial and programmatic resources to be available for the school in perpetuity.  We are grateful to our generous community for supporting the importance of STEM at St. Margaret’s. 
 
Appointed in 2014 through an extensive application and review process, Heather Murray is the first STEM fellow in a term that goes through June 2017. Mrs. Murray’s first priority was to implement more interdisciplinary STEM curriculum through integrated projects promoting experiential, project-based learning. In her first year, she integrated the Lower School service themes with a STEM problem-solving project.  A second priority is to use Design Thinking to incorporate an engineering methodology to solve a variety of STEM challenges and problems. Highlights from the past year include student challenges utilizing the design thinking process in Lower School to imagine the perfect dining services facility, and in Upper School to design a desirable teenager’s autonomous vehicle.

Design Thinking

HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION RESEARCHERS, RON RITCHART AND DAVID PERKINS

“Learning is a consequence of thinking.  Students’ understanding of content, and even their memory for content, increases when they think through – and with – the concepts and information they are studying.” 

DESIGN THINKING PROCESS

The best STEM instruction focuses on the thinking processes embedded in STEM subjects.  What we know from decades of conclusive research is that students learn better when they are actively engaged in thinking as opposed to simply receiving and memorizing material.  At St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, our teachers have long moved away from simply providing content to students, and teach thinking skills as well. Our teachers make thinking visible for students to understand how to think through a problem, a piece of text or a new topic. 
 
Drawing inspiration from Stanford University’s d.school, St. Margaret’s utilizes the Design Thinking process in STEM education as a catalyst for innovation, creativity, problem solving, and invention.
The Design Thinking process begins with empathy.  In order to determine the best solution, the designer has to first understand the experience of the user. Once the designer has fully empathized and understood the challenges faced by the potential user, it is time to define a user point of view that will inform the design.  The next step in the process is to ideate--come up with a multitude of diverse possible solutions.  In this stage, the sky is the limit!  Once all possibilities have been explored, it is time to prototype or transform the ideas into a physical form.  This is often the stage when students are able to utilize new subject specific knowledge or the variety of technological resources at their fingertips.  Perhaps they will utilize a pulley or a simple machine in the prototype, or a 3D printer.  The final stage is to test, test and test again.  In this phase, designers are refining the prototype and using observations and feedback to make it better.
 
Embracing failures, which typically implies negative outcomes, is critical to the design thinking process. Students are challenged to see early failure as an important part of the experience of innovation and creation that stimulates new learning and understanding and ultimately produces better outcomes and solutions.

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An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County.
St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
949.661.0108