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Project Family Time! Re-imagining The Family Experience.

Through a design thinking approach, students tap into their creativity with an empathetic lens to support and inspire their family unit.

Photo of Gabrielle Gononsky
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Written by

I am a.....

  • Teacher
  • Design Thinking Coach

Tell us about your idea

Welcome to  “Project Family Time!” Coming together as a family means respecting one another, uplifting each other, and creating a space that honors who each individual is. Our regular routines and schedules have changed drastically. The Coronavirus pandemic has reshaped much of what we were used to. As we find ourselves in quarantine, priorities have shifted, and reflecting on what is most important is at the forefront of our minds. How might we re-imagine our family time through an empathetic lens? How might we tap into creativity and thoughtfulness in order to support and inspire one another? These are the questions my students explored as they engaged in a design thinking cycle to re-imagine family time. My students learned important skills through this project, skills that are essential for this ever changing world we are in. Resilience, creative problem solving, adaptability, a “bias towards action,” collaboration, and leading with empathy and understanding for others. 

Over the past few weeks, I have seen my students embark upon this learning journey. From empathy building exercises, family interviews and observations, to defining and pinpointing needs of their family. We looked closely at pain points, as well as areas to celebrate, with equal weight. My students prototyped ideas and engaged in deep, thoughtful reflection. We learned to SOAR (Step back, Observe, Aspire, Reflect). The end results are truly re-shaping family life. Some examples include, schedules that help with organization and creating a sense of balance,  family exercise games, and opportunities for more joy and laughter during this uncertain time. 

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

I have found that my students are more engaged with topics and material that are relevant to their personal lives. Opportunities where they can have a direct impact. I see a major shift in my students’ appreciation, and determination to open up and be more vulnerable when they see the work is relevant to the real world. When outcomes are unknown and they are the ones who will drive the experience. I wish to leave behind any sort of predetermined outcome, rote memorization, or regurgitation of facts. Not only is that boring for my students, it undermines their true ability as creative problem solvers and fierce knowledge seekers.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

This year, I took on a new role in my school as a design thinking coach, working closely with students and teachers, teaching design thinking principles. I have seen a tremendous shift in my students as they took on a design thinking mindset. Empathy was now at the forefront of their minds - the needs of others. When we found ourselves in quarantine, in our tight NYC apartments, I saw the need  to connect to others. I also felt the need to re-think our home life. What’s working well? What needs to shift? I thought to myself, if I’m feeling this need, my students are certainly feeling this.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

Our school is located in New York City.

Attachments (1)

Project Family Time Toolkit by Gabrielle Gononsky.pdf

Students can follow this step-by-step toolkit and experience Project Family Time at home with their family. The toolkit provides an explanation of the design thinking process, helpful tips, and worksheets to organize ideas.


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