Symposium 2012

Design Learning Network Symposium, November 2012
Henry Ford Academy, Dearborn Michigan

On Saturday, November 10, 2012, in partnership with the Industrial Designers Society of America, Henry Ford Museum, and National Art Education Association - the first Design Learning Network Symposium was held at the Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn, Michigan where 50 highly motivated K-12 teachers, college educators, practitioners, administrators, visionaries and forward-thinking college students from across North America gathered to focus on one vital topic – the integration of creativity, problem solving and innovation within K-12 classrooms today.

As a working group of like-minded, yet diverse participants, we came together to converse, learn from one another and lay the groundwork for future K12 Design open forums. Throughout the day we heard from leading experts on topics such as what is happening in the learner’s mind, nurturing competencies to survive and thrive in the 21st century and a global perspective to connecting the dots through an open source design-learning community. We also heard from best practice presenters who shared stories of their experiences with integrating design into K-12 classrooms. We concluded the session in a design charrette – where we explored initial next steps, desired impact and overall focus of our design learning community.

As guided by our keynotes and best practice presenters, we considered the following critical question:

What level of impact might design as a methodology for teaching and learning have on 21st century student learning?

K-12 design education today represents a continuum of approaches – some offer design as a subject for students to master skills within the discipline, whereas others provide students opportunity to develop design-thinking skills as embedded in the design process.

Within our pilot symposium, we focused on a learning centered approach to K-12 design education anchored in research-based pedagogy that is scalable and sustainable within any classroom across the nation – regardless of infrastructure, curriculum or funding. Our goal is to offer effective design learning best practice opportunities for K12 educators to deliver that are doable and accessible. To that end, we engaged in a process to unpack vital connections to how designers learn, process, and sort through vast amounts of information as they create and implement innovative solutions to problems worth solving.

An evaluation survey of our participants was conducted to gather valuable feedback and input regarding future directions and events to take place. 

Early plans are in place for Design Learning Network Symposium 2014. The event will be held on September 19-21 in Boston, Massachusetts at District Hall. Participants from around the world are welcome to join us!

For more information, please contact Doris Wells-Papanek at