You’ve Got Chocolate on my Peanut Butter

By Centennial Middle School, August 7, 2008

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Summer Design Institute

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Science
  • Technology

Lesson Time

Two 90-minute sessions


Students will be introduced to design by exploring activities that will lead to analyzing a challenge and solving issues through group work.

National Standards


  • Students will build their vocabulary and tools necessary in design through individual and group projects.


Many thanks and much credit goes to Scott Christensen, Principal, Scott Designworks, and John Comazzi, Assistant Professor of Architecture, University of Minnesota, College of Design, for their inspiration and commitment to design.


  • Art reproduction post cards [extension: images selected from other classes (i.e. social studies textbook) to create an interdisciplinary lesson
  • Dots candies
  • toothpicks 


  • design: deliberate purposive planning
  • process: progress; advance; gradual changes that lead to a particular result
  • prototype: an original model on which something is patterned


Identify and define the problem: 1. Students will be given two cards that have art images on them that don't necessarily fit together.  The student's goal is to find a way the two pictures fit together and do a drawing of their ideas. 2. Secondly, students will be placed into groups.  Each group will be given a box of Dots candies and a box of toothpicks. They will be given the following instructions: You will be given 15 minutes to construct the highest structure you can.  The following must be followed: no talking; you must use only Dots candies, toothpicks, and ingenuity; you can draw your design first. 3. After completion of the first structure, the students will be rearranged into different groups. Individuals will share what was successful in their first groups with their new groups.  Students will then create a second structure out of Dots and toothpicks based on what worked in their first ones. The instructions for the second challenge are as follows: You have 20 minutes to build a bridge that is both capable of holding a tennis ball and which has enough clearance beneath the bridge that a tennis ball can be rolled under it. The following rules must be observed:  no talking; you must use only Dots candies, toothpicks, and ingenuity; you must use sketches to communicate; you may build a modular example to show the rest of the group. Gather and Analyze Information: 1. Analyze the two pictures and find similarities that exist between the two pictures in order to create a third.  These similarities may be as simple as a color or a theme. 2. Students will confer within their group through non-verbal communication as to how the Dots structure will be built.  They may use sketches and hand signals. Determine performance criteria: What do the pictures share that would enable me to generate a third picture? What form, created from Dots and toothpicks, will best support a tall structure? Prototypes/Alternate solutions: 1. Individuals design a third solution (picture) by taking two seemingly different pictures and creating this third drawing. 2. Small teams of students design and build structures from Dots and toothpicks. 3. Students discover what works in the initial phase and then regroup into new groups and design a new structure based on what worked in their designs of the first structure. 4. Students pick the best attributes from each prototype and combine into a new solution. Implementing choices: These design exercises will enable students to discover the design process to be used in other design challenges. Evaluation of outcome: Final pictures will be presented with the artist sharing the first two pictures and explaining their design process in putting the two pictures together.


Drawings will be evaluated through an individual discussion with each student.  The evaluation will be focused on the discussion of their process. The Dots and toothpick exercise will be critiqued as a group discussion based on the experience of what worked and didn't work in their construction. The groups who created a successful bridge will present what worked in their designs.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Refer to "Sit on It!" lesson plan  

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