Global Children's Design-a-thon & Schools Program
What is Global Children's Designathon?
Anne Sallaerts, Managing Director
Worldwide there are 2 billion children of school going age. How can we prepare them to prosper in a rapidly changing, increasingly technological and complex world? How can they learn to design a better world for themselves and the planet?
Surprisingly to many adults, when the children are asked what change they would like to see in the world, they don’t ask for more time to play or sweets, in fact they want to cure cancer or remove all plastic from the ocean. To share a few concepts children came up during Global Children's Designathon 2017 on the theme "water": children in Amsterdam came up with a new type of pavement which can filter rain, children in India came up with a cotton net to prevent dumping waste in rivers, children in Clearwater (Florida) came up with a home elevation system would provide a way for a home to rise above the water level in flood prone areas.
The Designathon method combines aspects of Design Thinking and Maker Education, both approaches which are gaining ground in education systems around the world. A designathon is a structured workshop in which children (ages 4 - 12 years) invent, build and present their self-devised solutions to a social or environmental issue around the Sustainable Development Goals. A workshop lasts four to six hours and is facilitated by education professionals. The experience helps children become future ready through learning to design and use technology such as mini-motors and sensors. The method was first developed in the Netherlands and tested during the first Global Children’s Designathon in November 2014.
It is, we believe by combining the spirit of the Maker Movement with the approach of Design Thinking that Maker Education can ground itself in an even
broader purpose: that of opening the way to become part of curricula worldwide and empowering children to positively impact the world around them. It is by
democratising this power of creation as a structural element in our classrooms that we can create a new generation of “changemakers” at our schools.
Through collaboration with some 60 Dutch Primary schools and a smattering of schools in far flung nations from Dubai to China to Kenya (between 2014 and
2018) we have observed that many teacher’s are excited to incorporate this approach into their educators toolbox. The reason for this, we believe, is
twofold, firstly the high level of engagement and motivation demonstrated by the children but perhaps more importantly looking towards the future, teachers see the potential of designathon workshops to offer core curriculum subject matter such as that of geography, civics, nature studies (biology), physical sciences, technology and in some cases reading and history in new and interdisciplinary ways.
Our efforts culminate in the annual Global Children’s Designathon. During this one day event, children in the cities around the world come together to work in parallel and design & develop innovative concepts and build prototypes for one of the Sustainable Development Goals. During the day children have contact with each other through a live connection. They present their ideas to each other, and at the end of the day to a panel of experts, and a public audience.
With this event we are highlighting the ability of the children to imagine and design a better future and simultaneously we are calling for changemaker education, globally.
Through this event we connect with a growing number of education innovators globally who can bring this way of thinking to their communities.
By 2023 we aim to have empowered 1 million children as changemakers.