Parker 7-22


design thinking



Imagine a class where mistakes were not just accepted but celebrated. A class where students had the freedom to design whatever their hearts’ desired using everything from high-tech 3-D printers to no-tech Post-It notes.

This creative and innovative magic is what you'll find in our design labs at both Parker campuses. Design Thinking, in its most simple form, is an approach to learning that focuses on developing students’ creative confidence. Teachers and students engage in hands-on design challenges that focus on developing empathy, promoting a bias toward action, encouraging ideation, developing metacognitive awareness and fostering active problem solving.



Lower School students are given the opportunity to explore and learn many skills that introduce the Design thinking process. These include technology and making skills. Students will participate in various iPad and computer activities, developing students’ knowledge, technology skills, collaboration skills, and confidence. Also, students will use various mediums and tools to master basic making skills.

Students in Grade 5 are exposed to an interdisciplinary approach to Design and Technology that challenges them to develop knowledge and control of age-appropriate high- and low-tech tools, applications, concepts and skills which continue to increase in sophistication and complexity. The course goals include the development of skills with various types of media (e.g., wood, paper, digital), the enhancement of visual and digital literacies and the opportunity to manifest critical and creative thinking in a collaborative environment, leading to problem-solving and communication skills. Empathizing, perseverance, iterations and striving for precision are among the soft skills emphasized.


Design Thinking in Middle School is broken up into three sections. First, “Design in STEM,” challenges students with designing an experiment using only a random box of supplies. Students are given a theme such as flight, speed, or balancing. They then create a novel experience and write a lab report, in which they learn the iterative process and to keep going back to square one until they find a workable solution. 

The second section, “Design in the Humanities,” asks students to pick a culturally significant object from a region or culture they’re studying in their history classes. They do research and write a five-paragraph essay justifying why that object is culturally significant and then build a scale model of that object using Computer-aided Design (CAD) software.

In the second half of the trimester, the students work on "passion projects." It's entirely up to the students to pick and design their project using any of the materials in the Design Lab.

Design Thinking is all around us: We see it in the scientific method, historical research, and the artistic and writing process. We want students to apply the same rigorous thinking learned in science or math, or art, or English, or music, or performing arts to all of their thinking,"

Dan Lang, Head of Middle School



In fall 2007, 10 students started our team with the help of our head mentor, Ryan Griggs. Today, Team 2485, better known as W.A.R. Lords (We Are Robot Lords), is one of the most popular Upper School clubs, with a string of regional and national awards to its credit and a crew of loyal professional mentors and corporate sponsors, including Qualcomm and NASA. The W.A.R. Lords are from Francis Parker School in San Diego, California. We are dedicated to preparing our students for the rest of their lives in STEM related fields. The team consistently places first in regional competitions, and highly in national and international competitions.