District C: Solving Real-World Problems with Creative Solutions

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District C: Solving Real-World Problems with Creative Solutions
Greg Anysz and Lindsey Nelson, District C Teachers

The Middle School’s District C course provides opportunities to work on a diverse team to solve a problem for a real business.

 

District C, the problem-solving class that first made its mark in the Upper School, is now available to seventh- and eighth-grade students. The class provides opportunities to work on a diverse team to solve a problem for a real business. 

The class revolves around cultivating mindsets — specifically, analytical, design, collective and self-aware — that allow a team to be successful. The structure of the class also provides a variety of tool sets needed to be effective in working in a mixed group of students. The goal of each project is for the team, called a squad, to understand the context of the business’s problem and then provide solutions.

Students enrolled in District C have the opportunity to work with up to three different businesses during the semester. Each business partnership is called a cycle. Students have the first few days to read through the problem context and research the business. Next, they have an introductory meeting with the business partner to ask questions about their business. The squads then start to develop solutions. They have a mid-cycle check in with their business partner to run a few sample ideas by them and get some feedback. The cycle culminates in a 25-minute “pitch” event run by the students. The first 10 minutes are reserved for the squad to pitch their ideas, and the remaining 15 minutes are used for question-and-answer from the business partner and, then, audience members. 

Students in District C have the opportunity to learn about what it takes to start a company, the finances of running a company, how to optimize social media, how to pay for social media advertising and what it takes to have Amazon sell your products. These are just a few examples of what our students learned this semester — because every business problem is different, every cycle is different, too. The local business partnerships this semester included Growga, Pawsibilities, Wotter, Wonderpuff, Polka Dot Mama and 321 Coffee. 

District C has a direct connection to our Lead From Here framework. All three spheres of LFH are present in aspects of the class. Students must be accountable and growth-minded on an individual level while also learning how to be collaborative and communicative in their squads. Students provide solutions that are strategic and visionary when sharing their feedback with the businesses they’re working with. 

The most exciting part of this class is that students learn how to be successful students. They don’t have to worry about their grades or memorizing curriculum but, rather, understanding a process and how to be the best at making that process work for other people. It is a fulfilling process for the students to pair with a business, provide a few solutions to the problem and have a successful pitch event. When a business uses all or parts of their solutions in the real world, that provides a lot of validation for the hard work that the students put into the class. 

This course is a great opportunity to push students out of their comfort zone, to do something they’ve never done before. It's all about finding the power of working with a squad, while utilizing individual strengths to create a solution for them.