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Integrating Design Thinking, Digital Technologies and the Arts to Explore Peace, War and Social Justice Concepts with Young Children


Abstract concepts such as peace, war, border disputes, nationalism, heroism and others are difficult for young children to comprehend, for educators to teach and for parents to explain. Innovative approaches like Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics or STEAM, which emphasise experimentation, problem-solving, creativity and critical thinking, provide contemporary tools for facilitating children’s explorations around abstract concepts. One such tool was adopted in this study, the implementation of the IDEO (Fierst, Diefenthaler, & Diefenthaler, 2011) design thinking model. Following the IDEO stages and with the help of eShadow, a digital storytelling platform which converts paper-based drawings into digital moving puppets, children’s understanding around war and peace was enhanced and their sense of belonging with an emphasis on positive values (e.g., peace and collaboration) over negative attitudes (e.g., war, conflict and dispute) was strengthened. Four public kindergartens (children aged four to six years) from the northern part of Greece participated in the project in a period when political tensions around borders were on the rise. This study will provide useful insights into how a design thinking model can be implemented with young children and how a new technology, in combination with the arts, can make abstract concepts more concrete to deepen children’s understanding of political and historical issues and to eliminate stereotypes.

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We would like to acknowledge the hard work and effort made by all the teachers, children and parents in order for this project to be completed. Without their contribution, this study would not have been possible. Our special thanks to the teachers of the kindergarten who were directly involved: Ioanna Karagiorgou, Despoina Kaladaridou, Alexia Panta, Euthemia Gioti, Aspasia Zeibeki and Vicky Alexiou.

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Correspondence to Maria Hatzigianni .

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Design thinking coding—Actions and example dialogue for all children. Available from:





Cooper Hewitt (Hewitt, 2011)








d.School (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, 2017)








Design Minds (State library of Queensland, 2017)








IDEO (Fierst et al., 2011)







IDESiGN (Burnette, 2005)








NoTosh (Mcintosh, 2018)








Open Colleges (Briggs, 2013)

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Hatzigianni, M., Gregoriadis, A., Moumoutzis, N., Christoulakis, M., Alexiou, V. (2021). Integrating Design Thinking, Digital Technologies and the Arts to Explore Peace, War and Social Justice Concepts with Young Children. In: Cohrssen, C., Garvis, S. (eds) Embedding STEAM in Early Childhood Education and Care. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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