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Please join us and area inductees to celebrate this Act of Excellence on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 from 4:30 to 6 pm at Sanford Health’s Imagentics Building in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. See all of the event details here:

Harrisburg South Middle School: Solving World Problems through Empathy


Image of teacher Carla Dieda helping students at Harrisburg South Middle School
Carla Diede helping students at Harrisburg South Middle School narrow the focus of their Idea Foundry projects. (Photo credit, SDPB and Jackie Hendry)

A new class in Harrisburg is teaching sixth graders to solve some of the world’s problems through empathy. The class, based on a Stanford University program called “Design Thinking,’’ was brought to Harrisburg South Middle School by teacher Carla Diede and Principal Darren Ellwein. The two educators visited Stanford a few years ago and learned the approach to teaching. The approach is a form of problem-solving. It uses what Diede told South Dakota Public Broadcasting is the natural empathy of middle-school students toward problems in the world. Recognizing that empathy, Diede said “Could we give them a structure or a process that they could use in order to do just that? To change the world, solve problems.’’ Every six weeks, a new group of sixth graders learns how to use the design thinking model, called Idea Foundry in Harrisburg. The students are asked first to look at ways to make their own school better, Diede said. They ask other students for good things and bad things about school, as well as about problems they have. That gives the participants the basic approach. After that, they choose their own projects on which to work. Once they’ve identified a problem, they work on solutions. Students have worked on problems that have ranged from pollution and littering to the concerns of Nepalese immigrants in Sioux Falls. The class is aimed at making learning more practical for students, Diede told SDPB. But it is more than that. It teaches the students to focus on something they care about. “We don’t know what kind of jobs they are going to have in the future,” Diede said. “So we want them to be able to think for themselves and to problem solve and to get some of those skills as well to back up that content they have. So, they know that maybe there isn’t a solution out there, but maybe they’re the person that’s going to invent that solution.”

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