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The Evolution of d.lab

By: Ella Rook

So many things have changed about d.tech in its four years and d.lab is no exception. Photo by Bradley Kishiyama

If there is one thing that remains constant at d.tech, it’s that everything changes. This especially holds true for d.lab 1, the class that teaches new students how to use the design thinking process. Over the years, the class has gone through many iterations, each time improving on its ability to instill a design thinking mindset in the incoming class.

One of the biggest changes has been the timing of the class. From when the school first opened until the start of the 2016-2017 school year, d.lab happened a couple of times a week in two-hour blocks. Now, d.lab is held during intersession to allow for more in-depth experiences and the possibility of field trips.  

Back in 2014, the founding class’ freshman year, d.lab was all about throwing students into the design thinking deep end and letting them find their own ways. Senior Sebastian Golden recalled that he felt as if teachers said: “here’s generally what design thinking is, go do it.” Anabella Schofield, another senior, recalled that in one of her first d.lab classes the teacher told the class, “We’re going on a field trip to the airport and we’re going to ask some strangers how their airport experience is.”

Fast-forward a year, and the teachers had learned from the first d.lab class. There was an increased effort to focus the class and provide more guidance. Juniors Lauren Pineda and Andrea Pineda felt these effects and agreed that their class was “very structured.” Conversely, Sophie Dvorkin thought her class was “such a scatterbrained brained mess”, but she did learn “how to think on [her] feet.”

Last year the teachers decided to try and break up each design thinking step into a different class. For example, each intersession was dedicated to learning a single skill, such as brainstorming. Chemistry teacher Greg Fenner explained that “last year as a d.lab 1 team, we decided teaching a deep dive of a subject was not working.” Many teachers felt there was not enough material to teach on a singular topic, while sophomore Drew Gillett felt her d.lab was “all over the place but helpful –  it was an organized mess.”

Currently, freshmen are going through their first design thinking challenge, working on a design to improve lunch. Intersession Director, Dr. Wendy Little, stated that the main goal of this week is to, “internalize the designer’s mindset by learning the processes of design thinking.” Fenner also said that students in the class are given “a lot of work time to figure out what it feels like to have a relatively ambiguous task, but we are still providing enough structure so they know what to do at any given time.” Freshman Mia Giordano said that in her d.lab 1 class she has learned about, “being in teams, like being able to build and listen to other people’s ideas and accommodate their ideas with my ideas and make even better ideas.” Senior Sofya Shatalova, who is working on teaching the d.lab 1 class, said that she felt like the freshmen are “naturally progressing” in their application of the design thinking progress.

One thread holds true throughout all the iterations of d.lab one: The class is a unique d.tech experience that emphasizes teamwork and flexibility.

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