Lead / Create / Contribute
235 Hope Road, Tinton Falls, NJ 07724  /  732.542.4777

5th Grade Presents Design Thinking Capstone Project

The Class of 2031 introduced a new Capstone Project this year, presenting to their families and administrators on Tuesday, June 4. The new 5th Grade Capstone Project is a year-long research lesson in design thinking and collaboration. Design Thinking projects allow students to work through an entire process - empathizing, defining, ideating, creating prototypes, and then testing their theories. As part of the Capstone Project, the students were able to actually create a new space that they then gifted to the school as they learned to contribute meaningfully, part of Ranney’s mission. 

The students chose to renovate the outdoor space by the Bharara Family Library. When the library was built last summer, a new outdoor space was created just off of the outdoor entrance, with a fenced in grass yard. The students took that space and turned it into an entirely new area that can be utilized in many ways. 

To learn more about the design thinking process, the fifth grade students first took on the Second Grade Book Project. Second grade students brought in their favorite books, and read it with the fifth graders. The fifth grade students interviewed the second graders about the books and how they could be tweaked. The fifth graders then wrote different versions of the books and shared them with the second grade for feedback. This exercise showed the fifth grade students a lot of important skills that work within the design thinking process - how to do research and learn about the issues, how to create solutions and suggest them, how to ask questions that can inform the solutions, and how to collaborate. 

Once the fifth grade was ready to embark on the renovation, they started with touring the space to learn more about the area. They noted what was there currently, the layout, and different obstacles that might arise.

The next step was interviewing community members, which included faculty members as well as each grade from Pre-K to fourth grade. They asked questions like “what would you want to keep or get rid of?” and “What do you like about this space? They had to explain that the Capstone Project was their gift and that they were interviewing to find out different perspectives and opinions on how the space could be used and what the constituents would like to see there.

At a grade-level Town Hall meeting, they shared ideas from different classes - such as themes and furniture or objects that could be used. They voted for the best ideas and ended up deciding not to use a theme. Some of the ideas for the uses were: drawing, having a rock wall, a trampoline or a sandbox. Some ideas for the themes were unicorns, archaeology, rainforest, and amusement park. They brainstormed objects/furniture such as couches, garnet tent, bench swing, white board and a hammock.

All of the students created sketches and then moved into groups of 3-4 to combine ideas. The grade voted for the sketches they liked best, with the three that received the most votes becoming combined. They discussed popular ideas and limitations and were able to ask questions. 

The teachers created a Google Form to vote on the design that the grade preferred. Once they had a design, they met with administrators to talk about the budget and any safety concerns. They also discussed creating a plaque to name the space and identify it as a gift to future students. 

After all of the planning and prepping,  the physical space change began! The students moved rocks from the landscaping, trying out different ways such as assembly lines or taking turns. The students ordered and painted birdhouses to hang in the space and then laid down sod in the area. 

Students interviewed the Maintenance and Grounds crew to ask them how many hours they put in, the hardest part of the process, where they ordered everything from, and questions about how they did some of the work. 

As an added touch, the students painted Panther Paws (cement stepping stones) and painted rocks to decorate the space and add to the aesthetics!

They also researched flowers and decided to order Monarda Grape Gumball and Hydrangea and planted those in the new garden space that they had created by moving all of the rockscaping. 

Finally, the students all had to work together to put together a presentation and practice in Panther Hall so that they were prepared to share their project with the administrators and families that came to see it! After finishing the explanation, where each student had a turn to present, the students guided their families to the space to show it off! 

This project was a wonderful way for the students to give back, a beautiful improvement to the space, but more importantly, it was a year-long research project that taught the fifth graders social and academic skills that they will take with them into Middle School and beyond!


Ranney School

235 Hope Road
Tinton Falls, NJ 07724
Tel. 732.542.4777

Our mission is to know and value every child, nurturing intellectual curiosity and confidence, and inspiring students to lead honorably, think creatively, and contribute meaningfully to society.