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September 29, 2023

By Emma Johnson, Communications Manager

To kick off the year, Leonard White’s 4th Grade wood shop students at Ethical Culture are busy working on an innovative project centered on service learning. This “Empathetic Design Challenge” prompts them to work together, applying the building and design techniques they’ve learned in class to fulfill faculty and staff wish lists, from customizable furniture and enhanced storage units to unique classroom games.

Students were assigned groups and a project statement from faculty and staff members across the school. Vague by design, the statements challenge students to think outside the box, anticipate potential problems, be creative, and collaborate to come up with imaginative solutions. For example, Librarian Nicole Sterling says, “Many of the younger students love to see me check out their books, but because I recently had to get a three-shelf bookcase, it is too high for students to see the laptop.” 

Check out the video below to see the 4th Graders learning important techniques and practicing with cardboard before jumping into their empathetic designs!  

Next, students will begin the “investigation” phase by interviewing the faculty and staff who submitted project statements. This will help them understand the challenges more deeply and begin brainstorming useful solutions. We can’t wait to see the fruits of this creative process!