Instant Challenges are one of the cornerstones of the STEAM program. They occur at the beginning of every STEAM day. The challenges lead the students through the Design Thinking Process and help develop their mastery of the 4 C’s. These challenges can be task-based, performance-based, or a combination of both. With the task-based challenged, students are provided an information sheet with instructions and a bucket of materials. From this, they are challenged to construct something, whether it is a structure that reaches into the sky or a device that knocks over cups. With a performance-based challenge, students may have to come up with a rhyming answering machine message or guess what type of animal is being presented. A combination challenge could include devising a device and then presenting it’s special features.
Instant Challenges can have criteria such as time restrictions and scoring. When introducing Instant Challenges, we want students to have the greatest chance for success. Layering in the criteria would be a good progression. In the STEAM program, we start by allowing the students 10 minutes of independent work followed by 10 minutes of collaborative work with their home-school groups. During the building piece, students are given a relatively open-ended timeframe. As a student’s experience with challenges increase, the amount of time to plan and build decrease. Once the students are comfortable, start adding the scoring piece as appropriate. They are also challenged to work with students from other schools.
There are many sources for Instant Challenges. Googling “design challenge” will bring up numerous responses. Pinterest is another example of where to find challenges. If you are serious about the challenges, and want to move to a more competitive nature, check out Destination Imagination. They offer a challenge program where students can compete while developing creativity and critical thinking skills. In Manitoba, the affiliate director is Shauna Cornwell. Contact her if you would like to start a team.
Regardless of your purpose for using design challenges, they are great way to introduce the Design Process and foster student engagement in your classroom.