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The POWER of small gestures: Middle School New Student Orientation Design Project, Lunch #2

There is something to be said for connection. Even in the simplest of forms, connection is power. Connection opens avenues for collaboration, growth, change, and it always carries with it the commonality of kindness. Kindness often manifests in small gestures… and small gestures are very important. Small gestures facilitate connection. Small gestures make a first or lasting impression. Small gestures can and have changed the world.

Kindness met innovation during our 2nd new student design luncheon on Friday October 28th. It was inspiring to be a part of. The event was hosted by our MS Counselors and facilitated by our campus design strategist, Ryan Welsh. Ryan Welsh led our students through interactive design thinking that left them invigorated and feeling the power of their thoughts and actions.

The luncheon is part of a series planned through the Providence Day School Counseling Department to help innovate and redesign the current middle school orientation programming. At Providence Day School we are blessed each year with a group of new students. Incorporating these new students into our preexisting Charger community is important to their growth and our communities growth.

Thus, our middle school counselors took on an endeavor to redesign the current process of middle school new student orientation and paired up with The Center. The goal of this redesign is to dive deeper into what was meaningful, encouraging, and helpful about the new student orientation process. Then, discover how we might make resources more approachable and impactful for new students; what process could be created to make a more meaningful experience with a lasting impact on our new students and then begin their careers at Providence Day School.  

This curiosity led us to take the following steps:

Preliminary meetings – our middle school counselors enlisted the help of some key middle school teachers and the Center. During these meetings we crafted our re design process utilizing the pre existing new student luncheons are our window of opportunity.

Lunch Series:

Lunch #1 – Empathy Building Luncheon. Through the use of empathy interviews this lunch gathered data from students about the pre existing orientation process.

Lunch #2 – Design Thinking Luncheon. Through the skills of Center member Design Strategist Ryan Welsh our new middle school students learned about design through the creation of secret handshakes, dance moves, high fives and much more. This blog post will focus primarily on this lunch.

Lunch #3 – Identifying themes and building new ideas

Lunch #4 – Group Design of the new middle school orientation (scheduled)

This blog post will focus on the adventures that occurred during Lunch #2.

Let’s start by setting the scene a bit. Picture 23 excited middle school students, eating lunch and getting to pick their own sticky note stack and sharpie for the upcoming activities. The feeling in the room was thick with excitement, shining youthful eyes scanned the large post it note sheets with instructions on them around the room. IMG_0223.jpg

Design Strategist Ryan Welsh welcomes the group, builds instant rapport by addressing the students important people who matter to PDS, whom he will speak to as important people. He gives them the value of moo… (You moo when you don’t understand a word)

The designing began while students are still eating. They jump up when they are ready and post their post it notes on the large white pages. Filling them with color, thoughtfulness, and getting their minds ready to THINK about how they feel about the MS orientation process.

The group learns about their power as new students, and the power of small gestures. Small gestures being at the minimum the ability to connect, and then once connected to create cooperatively and constructively. This complex thought is learned in “mingle mode” through creating secret hand shakes, dance moves, and of course high fives. Through this activity, students realize that they are designing! They continue to embrace their power and the power of small gestures.

The students moved on to their second post it note design activity. Making their suggestions on the following prompts: What do you need to know about PDS/Middle School, what do you love, wish and wonder. Lunch_Fotor_Collage.jpgThis activity is KEY in identifying the themes from the day which we will use in Lunch #3 and #4.

To finish the lunch, Ryan gathered the MS students for a picture. He snapped it on his polaroid camera which wowed our student body, and reminded them that what they did today was special, it was a meeting of powerful people designing, thinking and working towards an important goal. The picture is the only one that exists, it is tangible not digital and will live in our counseling offices to remind our students of their special design luncheon and the moments they both created and enjoyed.

IMG_0265.jpgI know that we are all looking forward to lunch #3!

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