The Needs Statement
The Design Thinking process teaches many skills that we value: empathy, iteration, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration. What makes ADAT’s version of Design Thinking unique is the way in which we explicitly teach Judaism through action. As we continue to refine the way we utilize this process with our students, we have been able to hone in on the part of the process that enables us to infuse Jewish learning into each project: “The Needs Statement”.
As I am sure you know by now, Design Thinking is a five step process: Empathize, Research, Ideate, Prototype, Test.
Within each of these stages, there are a series of methods, thinking maps, and tools that we use with our students. Part of the “Research” step is the “Needs Statement.” This statement enables our students to focus on a specific element of the problem they seek to solve.
For example, our 3rd graders are working on the challenge, “How might our community find more opportunities to develop new friendships?”
Now that the 3rd graders have completed the “Empathy” step in the process, they are embarking on their research and developing a needs statement. Typically, the needs statement follows the structure:
“(Person) needs a way to (do something) so that they can (feel something/accomplish something).”
At ADAT, we will further challenge our students by asking them to incorporate a Jewish concept into their needs statements. We do this by altering the needs statement template to include a Jewish thought or concept:
“(Person) needs a way to (do something) so that they can (feel something/accomplish something) and (fulfill a Jewish Teaching).”
While our 3rd graders are still in the process of developing this statement, I imagine from their brainstorms, discussions about friendship, and understanding of the concept of Hevruta, their statements will be similar to the following:
“ADAT students need an activity bench that will create a place for the creation of new friendships and provide activities for them to do together in the spirit of Hevruta.”
Once the needs statement has been created, it becomes the driving force behind the Ideation, prototyping, and testing steps in the process. By including a Jewish teaching in the needs statement, we are empowering our students to investigate Judaism with the purpose of creating something new, as well as building on the ideas and values of those that came before us. They are able to add to the ongoing conversation of Jewish scholars through inventions and innovations that are applicable to their lives right now. In this way, our students will learn that Judaism is everywhere – in their minds, hearts, dreams, actions, and creativity.