Blueprint Design Thinking Protocol and Project Design

A collaborative effort from Blueprint’s Shannon Herzog, Kali Goings, Keely Vaughan, and Sarah Johnson.


We knew what we wanted to do wouldn’t be easy. In fact, we knew that doing something this innovative would require the best of us. The first year of Blueprint has, in a word, been grueling. We found ourselves in uncharted territory, in a constant state of evolution, in a continuous cycle of design that required no less than everything each of us could give at all times of the day… even 2:00 am when our brains were filled with “We should have…” or “Let’s do this next…” or “Maybe we can…” We’ve never flipped the off switch. And the best part is we don’t want to, and neither do our kids. We evolve daily because our kids do, too.

This project design is an example of one iteration but we find that with every advisement, every seminar, every kid… we have to adjust, personalize, and keep moving forward. It is the best kind of grueling, the best kind of teaching. It hasn’t been easy but it certainly has been fun. Through our evolution, we have come to realize that there is magic when kids no longer need pushing on a project; they’ve ignited the fire within themselves to charge forward making something amazing because they themselves are motivated and passionate. There is magic in the moment that a kid reaches out to an expert, and empathizes with the world that surrounds them. When they find a way to make an impact on their surroundings and realize how much potential and power they have. There is magic because there is such flexibility for our evolution, there is the best kind of responsive teaching.

It is scary to not follow a scope and sequence, but what that means in practice is that for the first time, we are teaching students instead of curriculum, we are leveraging passion and curiosity to drive students into a place where they are critically thinking and getting exposure in areas that they never would have explored otherwise. Being a part of this project has created more sparks in our own quest for knowledge than anything we have ever done and those sparks are contagious among our team and among our students. We are teaching kids to use information technology to “geek out” on knowledge. We are teaching kids to find answers to questions and push forward to find multiple perspectives on local and global issues. We expect them to communicate with professionals and ask hard, meaningful questions.

Blueprint is what happens when you take a gigantic risk in the field of education and find yourself facing real life problems. Our classroom is without borders; our students know no box. There is magic in what we are doing— it can be messy, it can be emotional, we laugh a lot and shed a lot of tears, but it is real. The best part is, we get to do it all again and we feel beyond lucky.


The inception of each project is as unique as the students themselves. Sometimes a seminar topic sparks their curiosity, other times students use the content standards as a starting point, while some students want to dig deeper into something they are already passionate about.

Once their direction is set, they set the following goals, specific to their project: content, world class outcomes, modern learning, one of the four c’s, research, writing, and design thinking. They can use Blueprint’s plan page to access applicable rubrics and goals for specific wording.

Here are various student examples from different projects:

World Class Outcome Goal: I will be able to evaluate multiple wars (American Revolution, French Revolution, and Civil War) relationships and their influence on lasting change in the world.

Content Goal: I will be able explore different sources of energy through the use of renewable energy in the planning of a city.

Modern Learning Goal: I will use more than one worldview to justify my opinion on how countries should approach bills in relation to pollution.

These goals become the foundation for their research, inquiry, and design and drive their work for the next several weeks.


After goals are set up, students use Bloom’s taxonomy and inquiry questions to create daily learning targets that give them independence in achieving their next steps. For example, if a student has a content goal to learn about Ecosystems through the study of Life Science, a series of learning targets could sound like the following:

  • Remember: I will describe what is an Ecosystem is.
  • Understand: I will compare and contrast four different examples of Ecosystems.
  • Apply: I will examine my local ecosystem.
  • Analyze: I will investigate how ecosystems are interdependent.

These blooms statements become focal points for research as students read multiple sources, take notes and discover new information.

Students use these daily targets to guide their research and grow their questions. Blueprint facilitators offer direct instruction seminars throughout the day based on student suggestion or facilitator observation. Seminars provide guidance for students as they move towards acquisition of their targets and goals and an opportunity to collaborate with each other on similar ideas. Workshops are also offered to provide more focused and specific support with content and literacy skills. Students can sign-up for advisement for one-on-one conferencing to help their thinking and ideas move forward and move to a more critical level. Google Classroom is used to manage their work and as students achieve learning targets and reflect on seminars and workshops, they link in evidence into their project design to monitor their progress.



Above all else, we want our kids to be designers. We want them to open their eyes and hearts to each other, their community, and the world. It is through Design Thinking that students achieve this vision and design realistic solutions that they have found through their research, interviews, and experience.

Throughout their project, students reach out to experts in help deepen and broaden their research. Interviewing with professionals in the industry in their focused content area, gives students a chance to actualize their ideas and find value in what they are studying. It is the key motivating factor for our kids because they know what they are learning and creating matters, they feel empowered to make change and solve real problems that affect real people.

Through the Design Thinking protocol, students use their research and information from experts to identify and connect with a user and develop a Point of View statement that requires empathy and many ideas to solve for a problem. Students are asked to develop a prototype to solve a need and test their idea many times to determine if it is truly a sustainable solution and if it truly what their user needs. It boils down to human connection and not being afraid to be a catalyst for change.

We find that students learn the most about themselves and the world around them through this work. Though we focus mostly on process (our reading/writing/problem solving cycle), design thinking embeds an opportunity to produce an idea, a solution or build a prototype that meets a real need.

Blueprint Project Design (PDF)

Design Thinking Protocol


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Katie Muhtaris
Katie Muhtaris
6 years ago

Thank you so much for posting this! I am so inspired with this work. I

Katie Muhtaris
Katie Muhtaris
6 years ago
Reply to  Katie Muhtaris

I would love to hear more about the seminars! More posts from these teachers would be great.