posted on January 21, 2016

Design Thinking, Critical Thinking and other forms of collaborative group work have become popular methods of inquiry in many classrooms. Vital to the success of this work is the ability and willingness of students to: share ideas freely, be open to compromise, be willing to let a strongly held belief go in order to further group progress and consensus, and to realize that different inputs lead invariably to different results.

Using the INTOOBA Construction Kit, I have created a largely non verbal classroom exercise where these topics can be investigated. Establishing non verbal parameters dramatically illustrate how students can communicate the abovementioned concepts through thought and action.

Click HERE for INTOOBA Construction Kit


The purpose of this exercise is to show young learners how they can develop collaborative skills for group project work. Students learn:

• how to appreciate the input of others
• how to give up firmly held ideas to reach consensus
• that different inputs/circumstances/variables lead to different outcomes

Teachers can see how students actively tackle ideas through group manipulative work.


This exercise is done in three non verbal stages, followed by a discussion of the process and outcomes.

The teacher gives students, in groups of 2-6, a task to complete. Using the INTOOBA Construction Kit, students can build a spacecraft, a chair, a bridge. The teacher puts the manipulative material in front of the students, and explains that this process occurs in three non verbal steps.

Step 1: Student starts by picking up a manipulative and adding a piece to it; it is then passed to the next student in rotation until the task is complete. Students may only add one piece to the construction. Upon completion, a visual image of the product is captured for future comparison.

Step 2: The same process is repeated. Only this time, the student may take a turn either by adding a manipulative to, or taking one off, the construction. Capture image.

Step 3: In this final round, students may do either or both adding and subtracting a piece. Capture image.

Class discussion to follow:

• What did it feel like not to be able to communicate verbally?
• What did it feel like if your item was removed by a subsequent participant?
• What did it feel like to remove a piece?
• Discuss how the three outcomes varied and why.

posted on January 4, 2016

Explorers are taking to the high seas again in two new Kon Tiki rafts. This represents a wonderful learning opportunity for K-12 students in the areas of science, travel, exploration, rafts, history!

Click HERE for Kon Tiki 2!

posted on

6th grade students at Dawson School in Lafayette, CO collaborated with Western Disposal, a local business, in a community problem solving by design exercise to find an actionable solution to trash management: Click HERE for article.

This effort illustrates how school students can partner with local businesses to try to find solutions to local community challenges. BCILD is committed to helping schools integrate critical thinking, design thinking, and other problem solving techniques into classrooms through increased interactions with local community members.

posted on October 16, 2015

School and Community – An Interactive Learning Experience

Sixth grade students were studying the California Gold Rush of the 1800s. They had to decide whether they were going to be miners or storekeepers. BCILD arranged for local entrepreneurs to come into the classroom to share their experiences in starting businesses. After students had formulated their plans, the group of business professionals (investment bankers, sole proprietors, and venture capitalists) from the community participated in an investor panel, vetting investment proposals. These investors listened to student proposals and questioned them as they would any pitch in a real world business setting.  Students were urged to consider risk factors, financial budgets, earnings to debt ratios, and marketing.

By bringing community members into the classroom, students were empowered as they experienced genuine interactions.  They were invigorated by relevant discussion.  Students approached the material they were learning with a level of sophistication and maturity, uncovering new skills in negotiation, quick thinking, precise listening, careful word choice, teamwork, deliberate questioning, critical thinking, and analysis.  

Students, teachers and professional community members came away from the project impressed by the learning and practice the students experienced.  Their due diligence, coupled with the inspiration of business people in the classroom, expanded the students’ learning, solidifying not only the lessons of the demanding times of the Gold Rush years, but also lessons of business and the entrepreneurial quest. Additionally, students learned how to communicate respectfully, how to collaborate with team members, and how to set forth and defend those proposals with perseverance and quick thinking. These are skills we want today’s students to learn and practice, so that their messages are impactful and clearly articulated.

posted on July 17, 2015

I am very happy to announce the formation of the non-profit Boulder Center for Interactive Learning at Dawson (BCILD).

The work of this Center, based on the campus of Dawson School in Boulder County, Colorado will focus on building a working model of how schools can fully integrate themselves into their local communities, developing thinking and problem solving skills in learners, and developing a curated online teacher resource in collaboration with museums, libraries, educational institutions, and environmental organizations.

Click HERE for BCILD.

posted on March 27, 2015

When rote learning education models closely mirrored early industrial production based economies, outputs in the classroom followed the teacher driven input- predetermined output style. Modern theories of education include a far greater degree of student involvement in their learning. Additionally, in an attempt to mirror rapidly changing political, environmental, and economic factors, problems presented to children often involve a necessity for self-directed inquiry where outcomes are far from preset. In such an environment, it is vital to provide an opportunity for children from an early age to interact with information inputs in the process stage of learning.

As such, developing ways for children to understand what process is includes opportunities to work mindfully in this space. Examples of process learning might include working with mathematical manipulatives, reading a recipe and making a cake, investigating the scientific method in a collaboration on a specific topic with a university professor/researcher while in high school, or identifying and investigating a social need and developing a product to meet that need. Processes already exist in many areas of education, but seldom are they identified as a specific learning goal in and of themselves. Design thinking, critical thinking, art appreciation and discussion, the scientific method, negotiation, and conflict resolution are just some of the topics which may fall under this category. Applying these techniques to multidisciplinary subject areas enhances students’ capacity to solve problems creatively.

Students need to delve into, and work through, process in order to grapple with the complexities and demands of modern society. Process inquiry meets the curiosity of students who are always asking why and how in their daily learning.

posted on March 22, 2015

Modern children so seldom see the process of how something is made. They do not interact with authors as they delve into the writing process, nor do they do not see barns being constructed or crops being grown. They therefore miss out on the often-tedious tasks undertaken from idea to completed product. All interactions, production, thought processes, and output of any nature goes through a system and process. It is important for students to be able to think through what systems and processes are, how they are best defined, and how they might best be illustrated. This assists young learners in being observant of the world around them, questioning of how their environment operates, and being able to illustrate a written observation. The student handout is shown hereunder:


Systems and processes refer to the way the world around us operates. You may not have considered this before, but there are many such systems and processes all around us every day. Consider how the human brain controls our body motions, and vital functions. This is a system and a process. The system is the human body, and the process is the way the brain does this management. Other systems and processes, many of them man-made, include transportation systems, presidential debates, and how people get educated. A very simply system and process is how to make a cup of coffee. The system is the coffee beans are grown, prepared, and shipped to shops. The process is how you actually make a cup of coffee, or buy it.

Each of these follows a set of guidelines or procedures which usually occur in a sequence if they are to be successful. For example, consider the NYC subway system. It is a very complicated underground train system that allows millions of people to move around New York City quickly and efficiently. The system is the tracks and trains. The process is how people use it, including using a diagrammatic representation allowing people to see how to get from one place to another. You can Google it. Different colored lines represent different subway lines. So, it is a system, and process with a diagram.

Your task: 10 systems and processes. Write what they are (system), how they work (process), and try to draw a diagram of them. Please investigate 3 by yourself in class, 2 with a partner in class, 3 by yourself for homework, and 2 with an adult at home.

posted on October 22, 2014

I was very interested to read the attached Mindshift article about how we view student academic struggle in schools. Eastern cultures appear to see struggle as an integral part of the learning process, whereas the article states that western cultures see struggle as a weakness, or something needing immediate correction. It would be interesting to have a discussion linking these perspectives with Angela Duckworth’s idea on developing grit.

Mindshift article HERE