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Grade 4: Game Designers Use Empathy and Creativity

The Sam Loewi Unified Neighborhood Games have been hosted by Graland’s fourth graders for almost 20 years as the culminating event in their yearlong service-learning program. This year, using the innovation skills they have been cultivating at Graland, students used the design process to identify activities for their buddies. 
The Sam Loewi Unified Neighborhood Games have been hosted by Graland’s fourth graders for almost 20 years as the culminating event in their yearlong service-learning program. This year, using the innovation skills they have been cultivating at Graland, students used the design process to identify activities for their buddies. Basing their project on a model created by the Stanford d. School and the process used by students in the Gates Invention and Innovation Program, fourth graders started with empathy and thinking about the needs of their buddies. 
 
Empathize
How do you learn about your audience? Students have spent several hours over the course of the year interacting with their friends with developmental and physical challenges. They were able to observe, research, survey, interview their buddies to learn about their unique needs. “Empathy means thinking about others,” explains Hadlee Wolf (4). “We weren’t designing games that are fun for us; we want them to be fun for our buddies.”
 
Define
The next step is to sharpen key questions. Students were guided by the innovation specialists, Elizabeth Leddy and Jorge Chavez, to think about their buddy’s senses (hearing, sight, touch), interests, likes, dislikes and abilities. They asked themselves, “What do our buddies need?” Some of the answers were friends, simple instructions, space and team building activities. 
 
Ideate & Prototype
Students brainstormed solutions and sketched at least five “radical” ways to have fun while meeting their buddies’ needs - the crazier the better! “We had to remember that some of our buddies are sensitive to touch or loud noises and try to think of games that wouldn’t make them uncomfortable,” says Koops Lord (4).
 
Test
Then, they turned their ideas over to teachers in the PE department to get user feedback before finalizing four fun activities designed with their buddies in mind:
  • Obstacle Course
  • Parachute Activity + Freeze Dancing 
  • Scooter Challenges
  • Throwing/Kicking Targets
Well done! We look forward to seeing fourth graders and their buddies in action today at the Games! Click here to see a video about the project. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PYb3symeRxYihIo9m77CB2yowjUCdslw/view?ts=5cc12a09
 
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Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.