86 Future Forwards: Exploring Frontiers in Education
Once we had captured our thoughts and ideas, we thought we had the makings of a unit that would
engage and empower our students to uncover, understand, and change our community.
After months of reading, several conversations, and time spent planning our PBL unit, it was time to teach.
First, we needed our first graders to gain awareness of the conflicts that had been affecting our
community. We provided post-it notes and chart paper to our students and asked them to write down
and share the conflicts they were experiencing at school. They noted an array of conflicts and locations
where those conflicts were taking place. After raising awareness of conflict in our first grade community,
we asked our principal, Mr. Smithies to speak with our students about the importance of resolving
conflicts at school.
Framing the Driving Question
Mr. Smithies highlighted that finding solutions to
conflicts was important in order to keep students
safe and create a positive learning environment.
After leading a discussion on the conflicts students
were noticing, Mr. Smithies invited the first grade
students to take up the task of creating a more
peaceful first grade community. Then we shared our
driving question: How might we design a more
peaceful community? Now, the first graders had an
authentic purpose for learning about communities,
and a driving question to guide them.
Thinking and planning for the phases of the students’
design thinking process
Mr. Smithies helping us frame our driving question for the