Carousels, Carnivals, and Cotton Candy: Design for Fun

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, August 24, 2006

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Product Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

One or two fifty-minute class periods


In this activity, students will design a carousel for an amusement park. They will work in collaborative groups, conduct research, develop a presentation, write a descriptive paragraph, evaluate design features, and draw an artistic rendering.

National Standards

Standard 1. Level II. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 5. Uses strategies (e.g., adapts focus, organization, point of view; determines knowledge and interests of audience) to write for different audiences (e.g., self, peers, teachers, adults) 6. Uses strategies (e.g., adapts focus, point of view, organization, form) to write for a variety of purposes (e.g., to inform, entertain, explain, describe, record ideas)
Standard 4. Level II. Gathers and uses information for research purposes 4. Uses electronic media to gather information (e.g., databases, Internet, CD-ROM, television shows, cassette recordings, videos, pull-down menus, word searches) Standard 7. Level II. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines) 6. Uses prior knowledge and experience to understand and respond to new information
Standard 1. Level II. Uses a variety of strategies in the problem-solving process 1. Uses a variety of strategies to understand problem situations (e.g., discussing with peers, stating problems in own words, modeling problem with diagrams or physical objects, identifying a pattern) 7. Uses explanations of the methods and reasoning behind the problem solution to determine reasonableness of and to verify results with respect to the original problem
Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level II. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 1. Contributes to group discussions 7. Makes basic oral presentations to class (e.g., uses subject-related information and vocabulary; includes content appropriate to the audience; relates ideas and observations; incorporates visual aids or props; incorporates several sources of information) 10. Organizes ideas for oral presentations (e.g., uses an introduction and conclusion; uses notes or other memory aids; organizes ideas around major points, in sequence, or chronologically; uses traditional structures, such as cause-and-effect, similarity and difference, posing and answering a question; uses details, examples, and anecdotes to clarify information)
Working With Others


Students will do the following:
  • brainstorm ideas
  • conduct Internet research
  • analyze and evaluate information
  • write an argument
  • analyze and evaluate group work
  • draw an artistic rendering
  • create a presentation


  • "Design a Carousel" handout


  • computer with Internet access


Building Background Amusement Park Research

The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to explore different components of amusement parks. 1. Divide the class into pairs and ask them to discuss the following questions:
  • Have you ever been to an amusement park?
  • If so, what was your favorite ride?
  • What do you know about how amusement parks are designed?
  • Have you ever ridden a carousel? What did it look like?
Ask for volunteers to share the results of their small group discussions with the entire class. 2. As a class, view the following Internet site that describes the history of the carousel at: 3. After the students have browsed the site and read the information, ask them to summarize what they have learned.

Steps for Learning Designed for Play

The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to design a carousel.

1. Divide the class into small groups. Tell the students that each group is going to design a carousel for an amusement park. 2. Give the students a copy of the "Design a Carousel" handout. 3. Create a classroom design presentation. Ask each group to post pictures of the design, and have each group present its plan to the entire class. If possible, invite students from another class to view the presentations. 4. Discuss the different elements of each group's carousel design.


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their design process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.-How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas? (Excellent, Good, Adequate, Poor)-Rate how effectively you analyzed the information you used to identify your problem. (Excellent, Good, Adequate, Poor)-Rate the effectiveness of your solution. (Excellent, Good, Adequate, Poor) -Rate how clearly you communicated the problem you wanted to solve. (Excellent, Good, Adequate, Poor) -Rate how clearly you communicated your solution. (Excellent, Good, Adequate, Poor) -Rate your effectiveness as problem solvers. (Excellent, Good, Adequate, Poor) -Rate your creativity. (Excellent, Good, Adequate, Poor)

Enrichment Extension Activities

Activity One: New Ideas/New Rides

Have your students visit the websites of the following amusement parks and design a new ride for one of them:

Activity Two: Poetry in Motion

Ask the students to write a poem about their carousel. Provide time for students to share their work.

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