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Summit Hill Elementary Students Learn Design Thinking

The students at Summit Hill Elementary have a new Specials class this year, and so far they are loving the new challenge. Debra Leeson’s Advanced Strategies Lab (ASL) asks a lot of the students, but they are living up to her expectations, and their potential.

The ASL was part of an initiative by the School Governance Council (SGC) to provide creative ways to give students a chance to excel. This special class teaches students critical and creative thinking skills, focusing on design thinking, plus communication and collaboration, to develop leadership and learning skills. The SGC wanted to showcase learning, especially science and social studies, while adhering to state and district standards. “Every child needs some form of challenge,” said Advanced Strategies Instructor Debra Leeson.

For Summit Hill Elementary, that challenge comes in the form of design thinking, which tackles problem-solving with empathy, brain-storming, testing ideas, and soliciting feedback. During their weekly ASL classes, students learn to look at big problems in a smaller way. They apply design thinking steps to solve everyday problems, like sleeping through a morning alarm or lack of time to do homework. “It’s important for students to learn to apply critical thinking in all aspects of life. Don’t just think out of the box, but out of the room!” said Ms. Leeson.

During their time in the ASL, students also took a quiz to identify their learning style. The results were shared with their teachers, who are now able to tailor lessons that cover visual, verbal, and kinesthetic learning.

“After diving deeper into our CCRPI data, the SGC at Summit Hill noticed that we have an opportunity to improve our levels of student growth. The Advanced Strategies Lab gives all our students a space to gain exposure and practice TAG strategies, which provides high levels of critical thinking and pushes them to reach their highest potential,” said Mary Beth Burns, assistant principal of Summit Hill Elementary and member of their School Governance Council. “Our hope is that the high levels of critical thinking will translate to increased student achievement and improved student growth outcomes across all areas.” 

Later in the school year, students will complete their own self-rubric, allowing Summit Hill Elementary and the SGC to measure the effectiveness of the ASL program. 

Ms. Leeson is enjoying the chance to teach these outside-the-box classes, and the students are enjoying tackling new challenges. “Fulton County Schools is doing a great job of bringing joy back to learning for every child,” Ms. Leeson said.