Kids Can C.A.R.P: Introducing Design Principles in Kindergarten



After seeing Jocelyn Sutherland's final COETAIL project, C.A.R.P. Jr.: Design Principles Redefined, I was so inspired to use some of her ideas to teach the design principles in early childhood at my own school. Her project wasn't my first exposure to the C.A.R.P design principles. I initially learned about them through Keri-Lee Beasley at ADE 2015. The amazing talk she gave pressed on the importance of teaching design, as it is a key part of literacy and daily communication. Jocelyn puts it perfectly in her video, "the early primary years...are where many design habits, good and bad, begin."  We are constantly asking our students to create visual content to present their learning, yet we teach them nothing about how to make those visuals easy to understand and read. Teaching young students to recognize and use these design principles can lay a strong foundation of good design habits as they move forward through their school careers.

Thank you very much to Keri-Lee and Jocelyn for providing that push I needed to find ways to teach the C.A.R.P. design principles! Finally, if you haven't read it yet, do get a copy of Keri-Lee's iBook: Design Secrets Revealed for an in-depth look into the C.A.R.P. design principles.

Long Story Short...

Jocelyn's unit is organized to run over six weeks, unfortunately this wasn't time that I had. Instead I planned to do an interactive introduction of the four principles over four lessons. I introduced each design principle using a book I made in Book Creator. Each book contains activities that help students to reorganize a page using that particular design principle, or identify that design principle in the environment. As each new book was introduced, the students were challenged, not just to use the new design principle they were learning about, but also show ones they had learned previously. The last book finishes with a page where students are asked to create a page using all four principles. For all of these lessons, students were asked to work in partnerships so that they had to discuss their ideas with their partner.

I gave the simplest definition that I could think of when I introduced each principle. Here are the definitions:

Contrast: Making something on the page stand out or pop. Sometimes this means figuring out what is the most important thing on the page.

Alignment: You can hear the word "line" in "alignment". It means putting things in straight lines so that they look organized.

Repetition: Repetition comes from the word "repeat" it means doing something more than once (Like when we make patterns in math).

Proximity: We know how to make connections when we read, so when you look at a page you can also make connections between the things you put on it. Proximity means putting things that are connected close together.

Here are the books I created. You can play through each one to see what the content looks like. Below each video is a link to download the book as an ePub file so you can open and edit in Book Creator. There is also one student example of a completed book for each design principle. (NOTE: unfortunately some of the formatting got messed up when we exported the student books!)


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There you have it! A quick introduction to the C.A.R.P. design principles in Kindergarten. I was afraid the kids would get bored after the first two rounds of this, but through all 6 classes the students remained engaged. Naturally, we had to support some groups but many students worked very independently! Many teachers told me that after these lessons students started identifying and using the design principles throughout the day, such as pointing them out in books and poems, or using them when choosing colored paper to create a craft. In spite of the briefness of these lessons, I was really impressed by how quickly the kids picked up the concepts!

Thank you Jocelyn and Keri-Lee for being the inspiration!