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Design Thinking has students working as team

Dale Bonifas doesn’t need his students to sit still for the day’s lesson.

The Tippecanoe Middle School teacher would prefer they keep their minds and their bodies, if needed, on the move as they participate in the school’s new Design Thinking class and lab.

Bonifas, in his 21st year of teaching, accepted the challenge of instructing the new course for seventh and eight graders after learning about the concept at Stanford University earlier this year.

The Design Thinking method encourages students to produce innovative solutions to real-world problems.

Bonifas hopes to work with local businesses and community members to explore problems and solutions as the program progresses during the school year.

To introduce the community and potential partners to the program, an open house is scheduled Oct. 20 from 5-7 p.m. at the school.

Some partners already are on board with Abbott Labs, Miami County Foundation and the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation providing grants to buy technology such as smart boards and iPad Pros for use in the Design Thinking lab, located in a former school storage area.

The Design Thinking course is being offered as a semester elective this year to both seventh and eighth graders.

The Design Thinking approach was developed by IDEO, a Silicon Valley company, to work with businesses.

The concept encourages a team approach to working through the problem to reaching a solution. The result can be a product or a process, depending on the problem presented.

“They are learning how to work with a team, how to compromise. It’s can you use technology, can you problem solve, can you work together as a team? These are the skills employers are looking for,” Bonifas said.

The students were introduced to the concepts with first a challenge to introduce another class member. Each student in the next exercise was assigned to design the locker for another student based on that students’ interests.

Shoeboxes were used to house miniature prototypes of each locker. The first big challenge being tackled by students beginning last week deals how can the Middle School culture be improved.

“They are eager to learn. They are motivated,” Bonifas said of the students. “Middle School students are very impressionable. If you can get them to buy in and they understand why they are doing this, you can use their energies in a positive way.”

For more information on Design Thinking, visit

Contact this contributing writer at

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