Each month in our Lower School we celebrate students who exhibit characteristics of The 21st Century Mount Vernon Mind, our School’s version of the 21st century soft skills we believe all students need to strengthen to be positioned for future success in life and work. This month, we are focusing on Solution Seeker.


  • Formulates meaningful questions
  • Inquires, evaluates, synthesizes, and discerns cross-disciplinary knowledge and perspectives
  • Sets goals, develops a plan of action, and tests solutions

I headed out on several learning walks this month looking for curricular and student demonstrations of the solution seeker mindset, and I was not disappointed.

Grade 2 students worked together to measure the width of the courtyard using “giant feet” as a unit of measure.  Frannie came up with the solution to have all 6 partner groups put down their feet & mark it. Then, do it again. The courtyard measured 41 giant’s feet long!

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“…we can overtly teach young people to become more creative, strategic, and inventive in their thinking, to make the leap from a passive learner of previous knowledge to an active creator of new ideas.” – The Falconer by Grant Lichtman, p. 3

Our grade 2 solution seekers took problem solving and communication, two of the mathematical process standards, to the next level in this deep dive into measurement.

Additionally, Kindergarten students participated in a Gingerbread Baby design thinking challenge, where they designed friendly traps to get their gingerbread babies, who had run away for fear of being eaten, back. Chase told me that he was a solution seeker by finding a gingerbread baby in the cafeteria and the library. Chase explained,

“I built something. A gingerbread house! It’s going to make the babies come in it. I made a carpet, and it feels like this one!”

Brady made a home for his gingerbread baby when he returns, saying,

“I made beautiful beads in my home, but the babies can look but not touch, just like my sister Abigail. I do not want them to get hurt, but I want them to be happy, so I made plenty of places to play.”

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“Wonderfully creative, innovative, and practical results can come out of the collaborative process.”  Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, p. 171

More great pictures and video footage can be seen on Mary Cantwell’s blog (@scitechyEDU).

Grade 3 students were challenged to be solution seekers for their grade 1 buddies, who are still developing their fine motor skills. Working with our Director of Media and Maker Programs, Jim Tiffin (@jimtiffinjr), during their maker class time, grade 3 students created hands-on mazes for their younger friends to work on with their hands. Using wooden 2x4s, 12 gauge electrical wire, (finding that the thinner wires were too flimsy), 24 gauge telephone wire, blue wire nuts, pens (they hacked a pen!), standard electrical D-battery holders, lamp holder, and a bulb, students created a variety of mazes. Solution seeking how they could light up the bulb with proper circuit configuration, they iterated ways to make the maze faster and to change the difficulty level.

“We got to use tools that our parents would never let us use!”

Drilling the holes, using the PVC pipe jigs, and cutting with wire cutters were a highlight!

Grade 4 students became heavily involved in the solution seeker mindset to create voting booths for their grade 3 peers in maker class. They were tasked with determining the best way to create a user-friendly booth to accommodate Kindergarten through grade 4 children of different sizes. There was also a programming component using Scratch, where they were to create a voting interface to design the voting screen that students will use to vote. Finally, they had to find ways to tally the voting results digitally.

“When soldering, prototyping, programming, and inventing return to the lives of children, remarkable projects result.” – Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, Ph.D., p. 27

It’s exciting to think about what amazing innovations will be discovered when our lower school students take on the future world, knowing that they’ve intentionally built their solution seeker mindsets since elementary school.