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Design Thinking Class Empowers Teens to Fight Climate Change

Teens interested in learning the design process, creating change, and exploring a new way of thinking all while helping the Sierra Club fight climate change should check out the Palo Alto Art Center’s new Design Thinking class beginning April 13.

The course, aimed at teens ages 14-18, will use the Stanford d.school process of interviewing for insight, conducting empathy fieldwork, synthesizing findings into compelling needs, ideating radical design alternatives, and prototyping.

“These are big, juicy words, but the actions are about being curious, finding innovation, and trying new things,” says class instructor Claudia Truesdell of the course description. “The reality of design thinking is that it’s very enjoyable, human-centered, and connective.”

In the seven-week class, students will have the opportunity to work on the problem of climate change. Classmates will work in teams to discuss the best ways to address the environmental challenge, how to get others to change their thinking, and how to motivate others to become involved in a cause to make a difference.

The ideas generated by the students will be sent directly to Peter Walbridge, the creative director of the Sierra Club, and their designs may be used in a national campaign.

“This is an amazing generation of kids that are so tuned in and passionate," says Truesdell a graduate of the Stanford Product Design School and co-founder of Sparkfactor Design. “They really care about the world around them, and can feel their own power. Teens will get to do stuff that makes it out into the real world.”

During the class, students will also have the opportunity to interview people who participate in Earth Day activities on April 22 to find out what motivated them to partake in the effort. This information will then be used to help them in the design method.

The process of design thinking also has some practical applications for teens in other areas, says Truesdell.

“Design, in general, encompasses all sorts of disciplines and ways of interacting with the world,” she says. “It’s about empowerment and getting to the truth.”

But Truesdell also wants to ensure that the class remains fun and creative.

“We’re going to have deep fun where you get to be crazy, silly, and still have it be important,” she says. “In the ideation phase, you have to push past judgments. There is a quote from the d.school that says, ‘Right beyond crazy is fabulous.’”

There are no prerequisites for the class. Teens interested in registering for Learn Design Thinking & Create Change, can click here.

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Last Updated March 29, 2017