Bayview Elementary Educational Services Center Laketown Elementary Southview Elementary

Third- through fifth-grade students at all three elementary schools—Laketown, Southview, and Bayview—worked on a yearlong project trying to answer the question, “How might we build better places and spaces in our community?”

They were led through what is called the Human-Centered Design (HCD) process by teaching and learning instructional coaches LeAnn Millender and Jake Hockinson. HCD is an innovative process being used by businesses everywhere to better understand challenges and implement quality improvements. Millender and Hockinson hope this may eventually grow into the formation of a student-led Innovation Team.

Among the student ideas: 

  • The Great Maze: Real-life interactive maze with different terrain and obstacles
  • Waconia Entertainment Center: A place with lots of choices of interactive entertainment for all ages
  • Trampoline Park: Kids can climb walls, jump on trampolines, and zipline while parents can relax and watch
  • Winter Nickle Dickle Day: Winter-themed Nickle Dickle Day
  • Waconia Pier Park: Boardwalk along the lake with boutique shops

The process began last fall with students being asked to build a better backpack. One of the big ideas that came out of that was to put a clear pocket on the outside. For the banana—so it doesn’t get squished. From there, students looked at how to build a better classroom and their capstone project was how to build a better community. 

Throughout all of it, students used the HCD process, which extends learning through empathy and communication with others. Students conducted interviews, defined problems, and tested and shaped their solutions. Their final products were displayed during Design Showcases held at all three elementary schools. 

One team identified trash reduction as a huge community benefit, with a solution of using more biodegradable agar for beverage containers instead of plastic bottles. Another project aimed to assist senior citizens with getting outdoors more, with an easy-to-enter golf cart vehicle for around-town transport. Yet another suggested light-rail, to get to and from Edina, to overcome icy roads, and increase restaurant access.