Training in Design Thinking propels Catholic Memorial High School forward

With school out for the summer, high school teachers and members of the staff at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha became students themselves as they engaged in problem-solving and collaborative activities led by Mount Mary educator Deb Dosemagen.

Dosemagen, department chair and graduate director of education, facilitates design thinking training on Mount Mary’s creative campus and led the two-day in-service.

Both Mount Mary and Catholic Memorial High School have embraced the practice of Design Thinking, a framework that sets the stage for creative collaboration. The high school refers to the strategies as “PROPEL.”

“We talk about this method all the time when we are looking to creatively solve issues,” said Mary Gentile, a theology teacher. “We start by saying, ‘Let’s PROPEL it.’”

For the school’s PROPEL program, Catholic Memorial won an academic award known as a “Stemmy” this year from the Milwaukee organization STEM Forward.

Students with the capacity for building and working within effective teams have a competitive advantage in college. “When they leave, we want our kids to be leaders in problem solving,” said Mary Petrie, who leads the school’s innovation and entrepreneurship department. Petrie received her post-baccalaureate degree in education from Mount Mary in 2006.

As part of the training, participants broke into teams and applied these strategies by holding a short listening sessions with Waukesha County nonprofit organizations and coming up with actionable ideas that enrich these businesses.

The participating nonprofits included local chapters of St. Vincent de Paul, Habitat for Humanity and the National Alliance for Mental Illness, as well as Family Promise of western Waukesha County. Many of the suggestions involved strategies for greater community engagement.

Approximately two dozen instructors from Catholic Memorial participated in the in-service training, including art teacher Andrea Skyberg, who earned her master’s degree in creative writing from Mount Mary in 2016.

“This type of approach is in line with where I believe education is going,” Skyberg said.

Design Thinking

When they leave, we want our kids to be leaders in problem solving.

Mary Petrie '06