Rebecca Huffman’s circuitous route to UC’s Fashion Design
program both inspired and informed her non-traditional senior thesis, Design Genius
. More methodology than consumer good, Design Genius is a learning module that teaches students the value of education and the building blocks of problem-solving as they design their own products.
Unveiled at UC’s DAAPWorks, Design Genius takes a fresh approach to making learning relevant for kids of all ages, which is exactly what recent grad Huffman, 24, who works for LPK
“I knew that I wanted to do something that would help kids,” says Huffman, who spent a year working as a preschool teacher before starting her design training at DAAP.
As she considered what her culminating project for college would be, she thought back to a studio class in which she’d designed and created a real project, then put it up for sale in real life. Through that process, and its embrace of design-thinking, she saw the value of the disparate classes she’d taken through her academic career, from math to marketing and writing to psychology. And she felt empowered.
Her work as an LPK co-op increased her experience with design-thinking, an approach to problem-solving more often seen in Fast Company
than elementary schools.
“Design Genius is an attempt to solve the problem that our kids are facing by instilling a greater sense of educational purpose,” she says.
She describes Design Genius on her website as “the culmination of five years of study and extensive research on the Creativity Quotient, Design Thinking in education, the concept of ‘failing forward,’ sociocultural trends impacting Generation Z, and the educational and social development of Tweens.”
What that looked like, in the end, were three, one-and-a-half hour sessions in two schools—St. Ursula Villa and Pleasant Ridge Montessori—in three different classes. Fourth and fifth grade students examined case studies in the form of fictional diary entries. Then, they ideated, revised and designed real products to help solve the problems of their fictional “customers.”
“They learned everything I was trying to teach them,” Huffman says. “It was amazing.”
The students not only learned from the project, they loved it. Huffman received unprompted thank-you notes and testimonials when the students presented their products. She’s convinced that with a little tweaking, she can develop a fully functional learning module that can help young students not only design products, but create and sell them.
By Elissa Yancey
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