Juniors’ Ethics Project Proves to be a Priceless Learning Experience

By Jackie Fletcher, Opinions Editor

Design thinking is all the educational buzz right now — and Trinity Hall juniors are making lots of noise. After all, it is not enough to simply know information in today’s world; students must be able to think critically about ideas and apply their thinking to real problems. Design thinking, as practiced during the junior class’ six-month long “Ethics in Action” program this year, does exactly that by using creative, problem-centered practices to form real-world solutions.

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Juniors Julia L., Abigail D. and Gillian T. presented their product, “A Step Forward,” at Kent Place School on March 1. (Photo courtesy of James Palmieri)

“The project allowed our students to use their hands-on collaborative and design skills when applying their knowledge and empathy to solve a real-life problem,” said Assistant Head of School James Palmieri, one of the facilitators of this project.

This year, Trinity Hall partnered with the Kent Place School’s “Ethics Institute,” which sponsored a program centered upon solving the issue of homelessness in local communities. The design challenge was not only to build a solution to alleviate this problem, but to develop an innovative product that differed from the current, often ineffective, approaches. While the students were able to design according to their own creativity and inspiration without any parameters, all solutions needed to be feasible, replicable, sustainable, low-cost and high-impact.

To maximize this educational opportunity, substantial time in the juniors’ engineering and theology classes was dedicated toward refining the design thinking process, exploring the issue of homelessness and crafting their products during the fall and winter trimesters. This allotted students sufficient time to properly investigate, research and prototype their solutions just like a real company.

“We were so pleased that Trinity Hall faculty Kali Lambrou (STEM), Jen Jamer (Humanities) and Nicole Sadowski (STEM) accepted the challenge of supporting and mentoring our students through the design process and encouraged them as they prepared for their presentations,” Palmieri said.

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Juniors Sophia C., Taryn M., Allie W., Diana R., and Niyah R. showcase their product, Sole Sisters, at Kent Place School on March 1. (Photo courtesy of James Palmieri).

The culmination of the students’ efforts came to fruition on March 1 at the Design Expo in Kent Place’s Center for Innovation, where students unveiled their designs and carefully proposed presentations to a panel of distinguished judges. In addition to showcasing their real-world designs, the teams competed for $1,000 in grant funding from the EE Ford Foundation. In addition to Trinity Hall and Kent Place, teams from Scarsdale High School (NY) and Bryn Mawr School (MD) also participated in the program. Each team was comprised of 4-8 students and one faculty member who provided insight and guidance to the girls.

“The presentation of our product helped us with our public speaking and how to answer questions on the spot, and my project allowed me to empathize with homeless people and to understand the problems they face,” junior Colleen Cusat said of the Design Expo experience.

While the Ethics in Action program has now come to a close, junior Niyah Robinson summarized the experience on behalf of her fellow classmates, saying, “Our six-month journey was rewarding, and it is a moment from my high school career that I will always remember.”

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