After navigating ideas, students move into the creating phase. This is the part that kids tend to love—at first. It’s hands-on. It’s multi-sensory. It is what we imagine when we think about creative work. At times, students get lost in their work. With a clear sense of context based upon their research and a clear plan before them, they may even enter a place of flow in which they focus so intently on the creative process that they lose sight of everything else.

In these moments, making feels like magic.

On the other hand, this can also be a phase where students hit “project fatigue.” Sometimes they simply can’t figure out how to finish a particular part of their design. The problems can feel too insurmountable. The vision of what they will create doesn’t square with their actual skills. Certain students get distracted and zone out. Others get frustrated and want to give up entirely. Often, the group dynamics fall apart over creative differences (not unlike a rock band). Tempers flare and students walk away in tears, saying, “I just can’t do it.”

But it’s worth it. When students are fully engaged in the making process, the class feels most alive. It isn’t always easy, but it’s what makes learning stick and it’s ultimately what cultivates the creativity in your students.

What Does It Mean to Make?

When you hear the word “create” or “make,” you might be tempted to think of a tangible, physical product. However, in design thinking, students might design other types of products. So here are some of the types of things students might create.

#1: A Digital Work

Students might create a podcast, a documentary, or a website that they publish to a global, connected audience. Even when this is the case, it’s important that students can identify an audience that goes beyond merely “online.” In other words, who online do you want to reach and how will you reach them?

duct tape and cardboard#2: A Tangible Work

This is what we often think of when we hear about maker spaces. This is what happens when kids do a cardboard challenge or code with Arduino or paint a mural. When we do our Shark Tank style projects, kids typically create a finished tangible work.

calendar#3: An Event

This might be something like a car wash or a dance or a graffiti removal evening. It might be something like a TEDx event or a play.

earth#4: A Service

Similar to an event, a service is an ongoing activity that students design to help others. Here, what they are designing isn’t a typical finished, tangible product, but rather an action for others. Often, this works in a service learning activity.