Design Thinking + Project-Based Learning + ice cream

reinvent something by combining Design Thinking, Project Based Learning, and that something

I've had interesting conversations with many enthusiastic educators about this reinventing ice cream project of mine. And one question has always seemed to be a prominent one: "How did you come up with this project and the idea of ice cream?" 

The following is my (back then) thought process on creating this project, although re-organized. It is re-organized because back then when I was thinking of a design thinking project for our Kindergarten students, my thought process was messy and to some degree ambiguous. It was nothing close to this neat and bulleted list of thoughts and actions. And I am sharing this with you, in case you find yourself in the same state of mind (while creating a design thinking project), trust that you will figure it out. 


The following were my criteria:


  • It had to be tangible

The natural need for a feeling of accomplishment is one of the reasons why tangible outcomes are so important in education. I was looking for something to encourage children to "do & show" and to create a successful balance between their vision and their actions. So that "making a prototype" wouldn't be considered as another craft assignment but rather, as the action they need to take to transform their ideas into reality.


  • It had to have a short prototyping cycle, with endless permutations and combinations

With a wide variety of ice cream makers available nowadays you can make the prototype (flavor) in less than an hour, test it, refine it (radically or incrementally), and repeat this prototyping cycle. So I thought we are going to make a new flavor every 2-3 sessions along with working on other prototypes (serving model, shapes, etc). Having this short prototyping cycle allowed us to learn from mistakes and improve. It was an example that showed how mistakes and deviations can be a valuable source of improvement and learning.


  • It had to be not only inspiring but also keep the students intrinsically motivated from the start to the end of the project

My experience of working with children had taught me that if I tie a project to a real-world opportunity they automatically stay engaged and actively collaborate. Making new flavors, creating new shapes, and so on were all engaging, exciting, and fun. However, what took them beyond being inspired and engaged was building an ice cream shop. That was the real deal for them. It was their passion. And by passion, I am not talking about strong emotion. I mean something so meaningful to you that it drives you, it provides focus and direction, and it gives you the power to do what you intend to do.  


Thinking about doing this project for your students? All you need to do is to push your boundaries and get out of your vanilla/chocolate comfort zone! Believe in your creative power, add your twist, and be the catalyst for innovation. Questions? We are happy to help at




  • How did paying attention to feelings and user experience affect your way of looking at things?

  • How did iteration affect the results? What did you change?

  • What did you learn from your prototypes?

  • Did you get stuck at any point? What was it like? What did you do to get unstuck?

  • Which material did you like the best/least to work with? Why?

  • What did you learn from journey mapping? How did you include that insight into your shop?

  • How did visualization help you to draw the floor plan?

  • What challenges did you encounter when setting a price?

  • What did you learn as an ice cream seller? As a buyer? Did you notice any shift in your perspective?