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MYP Innovative Thinkers Design Real-life Educational Puzzles
From childhood to adulthood, playing with puzzles is a fantastic way to challenge our thinking and exercise our minds. As part of their latest Middle Years Programme (MYP) design project, grade 9 and 10 students were challenged with creating their puzzle creations.
Having already experimented with laser cutters in the past, our upper school students were now faced with a more advanced assignment with real-world applications. The designers were tasked to devise an educational learning tool or manipulative for Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten students at SCIS.


A manipulative here, being any various object, that students can touch and move around to help them learn mathematical and other concepts. Objects such as blocks, flashcards, and other physical learning tools.

The grade 9 and 10 students first began by working through the design cycle where they researched different puzzle options. Specifically, they began looking at what younger learners require in terms of social and fine motor skills, paying close attention to what children of that age can manipulate and work with.


A Holistic MYP Design Cycle

As part of the International Baccalaureate MYP, design classes at SCIS focus on the holistic design process rather than final products and solutions. Throughout, students are challenged to apply practical and creative thinking skills to solve design problems, following the design cycle structure along the way.


The IB MYP Design Cycle can be broken down into four steps:

  1. Inquiring and Analyzing
  2. Developing Ideas
  3. Creating a Solution
  4. Evaluating


The four steps do not necessarily have to be completed in order, and students are encouraged to jump around when needed; making improvements and changes, gathering more feedback, and adjusting the plan along the way.

Once the research was complete, students drew sketches, plans, and designs of different toys and puzzles that would soon become working prototypes. Students made all sorts of variety of things. There was a tic-tac-toe board, a puzzle of China, and a 3D cube with shapes and numbers, amongst other things.


Throughout this project, the designers received feedback from Kindergarten teachers as well as other adults who came into the design space to look at their working prototypes.

Once satisfied with the results, the final products were ready to be cut via the laser cutter. The completed puzzles were then sanded, painted, or stained and then coated with a layer of polyurethane, or varnish, for a final professional touch.


After nine weeks of work, students were ready to take their finished products over to early childhood classes. Our upper schoolers eagerly headed over to Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes to see their products in action. To everyone's delight, the younger students loved playing with the different puzzles and were quick to give valuable feedback on ways to improve designs.


Real-life Learning Outcomes

In the end, students achieved a wealth of learning outcomes throughout this project. They learned all about what it takes to design for a client, addressing the needs, requirements, and wants of the final user that is of a specific age and developmental ability.

Being in their fourth or fifth year of Design class, students combined numerous tools and skills: Adobe Illustrator, Laser Cutter, and utilizing different materials on the laser cutter. They also used various tools; hand sander, and Dremel, wood files, and fine sandpaper. Students also chose to paint or stain their product, finishing with polyurethane.


At the end of the unit, student feedback was positive; many said next time they would prefer more feedback from the students rather than the teachers. Overall, it was an exciting and unique design challenge to leave their finished product in the classroom for the younger learners to play with. 

SCIS. Innovative Thinkers.

  • design
  • innovative thinkers
  • myp

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