Toymaker’s Challenge: Course 5 Final Project

Here I am at the end of an amazing journey. One year ago when I made the commitment to join Cohort 7, I had the sense that this endeavor was way beyond my capabilities but that is exactly why I knew I had to commit. If I believe and teach my students about growth mindset then I need to model that in my own life. I am so glad that I accepted the challenge.

As a result of this course I have learned to:

  • Use technology for connected and global learning
  • Use the SAMR model to redefine learning tasks and enable students to learn in ways previously inconceivable
  • Blog
  • Empower students through technology agreements
  • Use zen principles for communicating my message clearly
  • Resource and educate parents
  • Connect with a learning community

For my final project I created a unit called “Toymaker’s Challenge” to teach a design thinking framework to my students and give them an opportunity to share their designs with the world.

My three main goals for this project were:

  1. Teach design thinking (purpose, process) to elementary students
  2. Collaborate with other teachers in our 3-5 team
  3. Collaborate with other classes outside of our school

Here is my final video:

If you are a part of Cohort 7, I would appreciate your feedback here

I learned many things but one thing I want to highlight is that it is totally worth taking the time to explicitly teach design thinking to elementary students. I learned how important it is to balance the chaos of letting kids figure things out and do their own thing with structure and framework. My hope is that now my students will use this way of thinking to come up with solutions to the challenges they see around them and that they will see the value of sharing their ideas with the world
If you would like to try this design thinking challenge, I recommend that you first get a copy of the book LAUNCH by AJ Juliani and John Spencer and then connect with me on twitter (@michellehanoi) and I’ll share all my resources with you.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the following individuals who encouraged me along the way:

My husband, Mike, for encouraging me to join COETAIL and always being a great conversationalist as I processed the new information I was learning.

My partner teacher, Anne Stuart-Gunay, for being willing to pilot the unit at the beginning of the school year even though it was crazy at times. I am thankful for her enthusiasm and encouragement.

My colleague, Alexis Snider, for jumping back into COETAIL and finishing her final project with our cohort. I always had someone right next door to process with.

My principal, Kristin Kappelmann for allowing me to make adjustments to my schedule and for seeing the value in teaching design thinking to our students.

AJ Juliani and John Spencer, for their book LAUNCH.

Joy Kirr,, for sharing out my tweets with her genius hour community

If you’re interested in teaching this unit, here is the plan and resources I used:


5 Replies to “Toymaker’s Challenge: Course 5 Final Project”

  1. Hi Michelle,

    What a beautiful project. You and your students brought Launch to life. It has touched and impacted your team, your students, the local community and beyond. You taught your students innovation and problem solving skills that will carry on for the rest of their academic careers and lives. I read through your course 5 blogs and project. The blog, your websites and lessons also modeled how learning is enhanced with technology as a tool. I am now an Edtech TOSA in Washington. Launch is one of the texts the District has for reference. I am assigned to the schools focusing on Project Based Learning. Your work is going to live on Michelle! It will be model shared impacting teachers and students here in Washington. It also highlights the value of the Coetail learning community. The internet is a real place with real people sharing, growing and constructing new knowledge. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Blessings…from Deb H in Oregon 🙂

  2. Hi Michelle,
    That sounds like a great project. Not only did the students have fun but they also learned very valuable lessons that they will benefit from in future project.
    Thanks for the tip on Launch. I am looking forward to adding it to my reading list.


  3. Dear Michelle,

    What a wonderful project for you and for your students. It’s obvious how much all of you learned in the process and that the kids really loved the project. I like how thoughtful you were in laying out the process. You didn’t just throw a bunch of material in their direction, you were deliberate about implementing the steps from the design cycle, and that was evident in both their own words and in seeing their final toys. I’m curious to know how you will continue to use the design cycle in your class, as it seems to have so many implications–not just in toy-making, but in planning presentations and inquiry and more. \

    I hope you stay connected via COETAIL; I would love to see what interesting things you continue to do in your classroom. If not COETAIL, than through Twitter.


  4. Hi Michelle, Your students seemed to gain a lot from your project. I’m also a fan of the writing of AJ Juliani and I was interested how you put into practice concrete steps to promote the student’s creative thinking. It was a good decision to take the students out into the community to the play space to see that what they are doing in class is also valued in the world outside. The final celebration activity looked fun and validated the students’ hard work. In their interviews, your students made clear that they had understood that the process is important and that it leads to a better product.

    I think your difficulty in achieving meaningful reach beyond the classroom is a common one; not that others aren’t interested, but it is difficult simultaneously to align all the things, both educational and practical, you need to coordinate. As you say, getting the partners engaged earlier would have made it easier, but in my experience it remains a big challenge. It’s something we, as adults, regard as very desirable. Do you think our students really benefit more from collaborating beyond borders than they would with classes in our own schools (across age barriers, say)?


  5. Hi Michelle,
    Congratulations on the completion of the COETAIL final project. You have planned the project meticulously and your students were able to attain all steps of design thinking process. Introducing design thinking challenge at grade 3 level will help students to be innovative and think out of the box.I wish you all the best and hope we continue to share stories of our classroom even after the COETAIL.

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