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What is a Wicked Problem?

A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. Wickedness isn’t a degree of difficulty. Wicked issues are different because traditional processes can’t resolve them. A wicked problem has innumerable causes, is tough to describe, and doesn’t have a right answer. Environmental degradation, homelessness and poverty are classic examples of wicked problems. They’re the opposite of hard but ordinary problems, which people can solve in a finite time period by applying standard techniques. Not only do conventional processes fail to tackle wicked problems, but they may exacerbate situations by generating undesirable consequences.

What are we doing?

We offer a maker-based program that introduces kids to decision making strategies, complex problem solving and critical thinking opportunities that are recognized as vital 21st century skills necessary to succeed in work, life and citizenship. We do this through a project-based curriculum that introduces problem solving strategies through the materials and methods of construction and the process of idea making. Students achieve global awareness and civic literacy while practicing adaptability, self-direction, collaboration and leadership.

How do we do it?

We approach a wicked problem such as homelessness or environmental health by introducing a project, a client and a set of criteria. We learn about building structure, how different materials work, construction techniques,  culture, environment, geography and geometry with each project through drawing and making.  Students apply their knowledge to design and construct their own iteration (or several iterations) that will ultimately become part of a solution that addresses the wicked problem. This basic structure gives us ample opportunity to explore issues of citizenship and community while maintaining personalization and individual growth.

Why do we do it?

The positive implications and opportunities of the program are far reaching for education and society. Students experience partnerships and the value of collaboration as we actively engage community experts attempting to solve wicked problems locally.


Students will present their work in a casual studio setting for friendly constructive critique and suggestions for next steps, community project needs or possible service opportunities. As the program grows, we will offer seminar classes that expand upon ideas and opportunities generated in previous sessions.