Approaching the Global Goals with Design Thinking

A solution seeking approach to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

By Jen Saarinen (@snej80)

View the video that accompanies this post here.

Instructional Approach

Inquiring Minds is a new course at KMS that is focused on the 21st century learning skills, social emotional learning and design thinking process. As a vehicle for practicing these skills, we have used the United Nations Global Goals as the content students are learning.

During this part of the course students are focused on a particular Global Goal and are working through the design thinking process. This is new to many of the students, but some have made connections to their experiences in STEM with the engineering process.

Our first step was to become more aware and empathize with the problems by collecting information via video clips, articles collected in Newsela, and the specific targets of that global goal. Next students worked in small collaborative groups to answer three questions that would guide them to write a statement that defines the problem. How might we ______ for ______ in order to _______?

The next step in the design thinking process is for students to begin to ideate, or brainstorm, ideas for a solution to the defined problem. In planning for this next step, I realized that it would be advantageous for the students to gather more information based on their questions and wonders about the target problem so they would potentially have more thoughts when it came to brainstorming. As students dove into this part of the process, many of them struggled to ask questions or make suggestions for the information that would be helpful to them in coming up with an ideas for a solution.

Educational Technologies Used

To access materials via google classroom, shared documents among small collaborative groups and teacher.

A teacher created collection of resources to gain information about the global goal. Here’s the collection from Grade 6 where students tackled Goal 13: Climate Action.


Used to created “The Global Goals are important” posters. A collection of posters created by students in grades 6, 7, and 8.


May be chosen by student groups to communicate their prototypes to others.

Resource for global goals articles and related media that can be adjusted to students’ reading level.


Scaffolded Questioning

Students are still very much used to answering questions that have been posed by others rather than asking and answering their own questions about a topic.

Mindset Stretching

Much of what I am asking students to do requires them to use some newly introduced skills and strategies when using Design Thinking. Students are used to having information at their fingertips and sometimes don’t have the stamina needed to apply the skill of critical thinking to ensure that the information they are gathering is reliable and relevant to their question.


Connected Learners – Awareness of the world beyond Bristol Warren

Less than 10% of the students had heard of the Global Goals prior to being in Inquiring minds. They now have an understanding of the problems that are facing our global society and are working to consider solutions and ways in which they can communicate them to an audience beyond the walls of our classroom.

See it in Action

Video embedded below, or click here.


Jen Saarinen is the Inquiring Minds teacher at Kickemuit Middle School. You can follow her on twitter @snej80. You can also follow the Inquiring Minds course on Instagram @inquiringmindskms.

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