In the middle of a snowy New York winter, my colleagues and I were able to navigate between storms and travel to Washington, DC and New Orleans, two of four cities in which we’ve established relationships with school districts for Cooper-Hewitt’s Smithsonian Design Institute (SDI), an intensive, five-day innovative professional development program offered each summer that trains K-12 teachers to use design-based learning in their classrooms. Although the Museum is based in New York City, we have trained hundreds of teachers from across the country.

SDI serves as an introduction to design and design thinking as a vehicle for creative problem-solving across curricula, providing teachers with training and resources as a pathway for integrating design-based education in their own classrooms during the academic year. In a flurry of one-on-one meetings with last year’s SDI participants in both Washington, DC and New Orleans, my colleagues and I were able to evaluate their experiences of the program and to observe some of them teaching in their classrooms. Given that SDI links the design process across curricula, teachers from all disciplines and grades are encouraged to participate each year. The training also aligns the design process to Math and ELA Common Core Standards and STEM learning. In exchange for participation in the program, teachers are asked to integrate design thinking into their classrooms, participate in evaluation activities, write standards-based lesson plans and lead workshops on design thinking for classes or faculty in their school or district.

In 2013, SDI was held in New Orleans, and participants included local teachers and those from Washington, DC, San Antonio, and New York City. As part of our recent visit, my colleagues and I began organizing the details for this year’s SDI, which will be held in New Orleans once again.

This summer’s SDI will be my first as the new Professional Development Manager. It was particularly exciting to be in New Orleans, seeing, in person, all the locales that we will be visiting in the summer. Passing the historic French Quarter buildings, seeing the rebirth of the Lower 9th Ward, and visiting the varied local eateries helped bring to life what a wonderful week SDI will be.

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