It’s been a while since I’ve checked in publicly with our Design Thinking team that is working with the Day School Collaboration Network. In a recent conversation with our coach, the team broke down the larger question of redesigning the Burt L. and Iris S. Media Center to address some of the smaller questions that will help inform the design process. For example:

  1. How might we inspire kids to read age appropriate material with guidance?
  2. How might we create a space that serves as valuable resource for teachers to get materials: accessible, supported, organized, and uniquely valuable content?
  3. How might we create a space that is versatile for displaying work so that students are inspired?
  4. How might we create a space where students can meet in a cozy, warm, communal space that is amenable to food, movies, etc.?  
  5. How might we create a central meeting place that feels appropriate for meetings with the the board, parents, and other guests?

In thinking about these questions, I started thinking a little bit more deeply about what we have learned so far through the design thinking process. Enter a blog post from  Ed Horwitz of the Jewish Education Project and Maya Bernstein of Upstart Bay Area, our partners in the Day School Collaboration Network, laying out five observations of the design thinking process that they had learned about training and schools and got me thinking about how their observations applied to our process.

  1. Slow down to speed up – This seems counter-intuitive to reduce speed to get somewhere faster. After all this is why we floor the gas pedal on I-271 to get where we want go faster. Slowing down doesn’t seem like it would get us anywhere in a speedier way. Yet, our design team is discovering just that. We could have taken any solution and thrown it at the Media Center and seen how it works. And maybe we would have been successful, but probably not. The design thinking process has forced us to think about how the space is used currently, what people would like to use it for, and what truly are the needs of the school. Our initial solution lacked insight into this and a true understanding of the space.

  1. Diverse teams make the biggest impact – There are so many stakeholders involved in this process. The team itself represents alumni, administration, and general studies, Jewish studies, middle school, lower school, and preschool staff. This mix of experiences as well as length of service at the school has created a team that can practically “see around the corners” as they explore the problem.

  1. Sometimes the process itself is the product – As noted above, the administration could have simply imposed a solution on the Media Center, and, in fact, the current situation of under-utilization is the outcome of an administrative decision. While I can’t comment on the decision making process that yielded the current layout and use of the library, it became clear to me that needs were going unmet. In going through a design process, we’ve have made a shift in the way that decisions for our school can be made. They can be inclusive and involve multiple perspectives working together to benefit the school.

  1. Name the unspoken issues – Simply in addressing this problem, “How might we enable our community to use our Media Center and common space in a way that feels valuable, accessible, and alive?” has raised issues that we might have preferred not to discuss. Conversations have touched on the absence of a full-time librarian, the use of the space as a math classroom, and the lack of availability of the media center when a teacher needs it. Often times, these are the topics that we dance around rather than addressing head on. It doesn’t mean that each of these will find a solution, but rather being aware of them sensitizes us as we seek to answer the larger question.

  1. Teacher and student empowerment – Since the beginning of the process, the design thinking team has not simply locked themselves in the conference room and pondered the weighty issue before them. Instead, the entire staff has been part of the process as they are asked questions to help better understand how they do use the media center and why they do not. One of the most interesting observations from this process was a teacher who shared that she doesn’t use the library because it is simpler to call the children’s librarian at the Beachwood Library, share with her what she is looking for, and later in the day to pull up to the library’s drive through window to collect her books. Without going through this process, we might never have heard this anecdote and have it shape our understanding along with comments from her fellow teachers.
    Student voices have also been heard and noted. Group discussions around the library and creative classroom activities with students in multiple grades helped them share their input into this process.

Now it is your turn. We know from listening to conversations in the hallway that the media center is often on your mind. Our parents were incredibly excited and engaged by our Go for the Gold – Read for Life program because Kehillat Schechter is a community that prizes literacy. We want our children to explore written texts that allow them to think critically and to gain enjoyment from the telling of a well-written tale.

Click on this link to answer a few short questions and add to the diversity of opinion that is shaping the design process as we look to create new models of how to engage with our media center.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dr. Ari Yares

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This