Cardboard Karakuri: Exploring the Launch Cycle

Media Lab 6 students explored the design process at the start of semester 2 with a Cardboard Karakuri project.  “Karakuri” is Japanese for “mechanism” or “trick.”  Essentially, a karakuri is an automaton.

Student Challenge:  Design a working cardboard karakuri with at least one moving part. Use a single theme to express a personal interested or passion. Follow the Launch Cycle to create your karakuri.

The Launch Cycle:  Design Thinking is a wonderful process and framework to employ for making in the classroom. John Spencer’s K-12 adaptation, which he calls “The Launch Cycle,” provides students with kid-friendly language and visuals. I used the karakuri project as an entry point for getting to know students, fostering maker mindsets, and exploring the design process. The use of the launch cycle vocabulary and approach to learning, set the tone and atmosphere for the class moving forward.

Reflections:  Students enjoy the freedom of creating in a “workshop” environment. Students discovered innovative ways to create mechanisms that were not part of the original project guide. Showcasing quieter students supported the building of our collaborative learning community, demonstrating that everyone has something of value to contribute to the learning journey.  I found that some students who are accustomed to excelling in their core academic subjects struggled with the iterative process.  These students needed extra encouragement, as well as coaching in asking questions and considering “fix up” strategies. This mode of learning did not come as easily for some. And finally, create your own cardboard karakuri and experiment alongside the students so you understand the challenges students might face, as well as tips and tricks you can share with the class. Students really love to see their teachers as makers and co-learners.

Theme in THE GIVER

Application in Language Arts?  How about creating a karakuri around the theme of a novel? To the right is an example I created for Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

Teacher Resources:  Here are a few resources that helped me launch this fun and engaging project… (Note: Please provide proper attribution when using resources. Thank you.)