Design as a Tool for Community Action

By Bruce Miller, July 3, 2008

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Two weeks


This two week summer academy/interdisciplinary unit asks students to employ the five stages of design as they work to identify and solve issues within their community.  Winsted, CT is an old "mill" town that is striving to find ways to promote its virtues to the surrounding townships and increase its economic viability.  Focusing on Main Street there exist a host of issues that can be addressed to help Winsted achieve this.  Through this unit students will learn from experts in the areas of town planning, community leadership, environmental protection engineering, architecture, art, consumerism, and entrepreneurism.  They will evaluate their perceptions of the community and develop a deeper understanding of the history and evolution of the town which will help to steer them in the creation of a plan to improve the Main Street area.  Finally, the students will construct a professional proposal to present to an audience comprised of town leaders, and commercial and industrial volunteers.
  • Lesson 1  Introduces students to the evolution of Winsted, Connecticut throughout its history.  An historical foundation will help students to understand the importance that Winsted has played in Connecticut's past.  An historiography of the community will work to promote pride in the foundation of this community and a perspective to view where it is going in the twenty-first century. The goals of this lesson are to have students confront the impressions that they had come into the program with and to leave with a deeper appreciation of the community and its past.
  • Lesson 2 The first step of the design process is developing an understanding of the needs of your client.  In this lesson students will be asked to tour the Main Street area of Winsted, Connecticut.  Working in teams students will record the attributes and liabilities that they observe on their tour.  Students will return and organize their information to present their impressions of how the targeted area impacts the attitudes toward the community.
  • Lesson 3 Research as a Function of Design.  Students will identify the importance of acknowledging a client’s needs. Students have conducted a preliminary assessment of the problem. Students will now review a survey that was conducted by the community that helps to evaluate the needs of Winsted. Focusing on information that includes demographics, geographic layout, and commercial viability students will observe how professional community planners use this information to draw conclusions about community needs and strategies.
  • Lesson 4 Creative Problem Solving.  Creative problem solving is a process that allows students to generate multiple ideas associated with a particular scenario.  In this unit the scenario centers around developing a plan to make improvements to the Winsted Main Street area to elicit greater, more positive interest by residents of surrounding communities.  In this lesson students will learn the ground rules of brainstorming as they apply it to identifying a problem and creating a solution.  This process is adopted from the Future Problem Solving Program.
  • Lesson 5 Once a plan to solve the problem has been identified students will work to actualize the solution.  Working in their teams they will create a prototype of their plan, roughly sketching, or creating models of what they plan to do. A specific plan of construction will be created in accordance with the solution statement acknowledging what the solution is, how the solution will work, where the solution will be employed, who will employ the solution, and how long it will take for the solution to work.  Students will be given butcher paper and markers.
  • Lesson 6 Critical Evaluation.  Students will learn the importance that constructive criticism plays in the development of any design.   To show the value of compromise and flexibility students will present their ideas to the group and to experts of various fields who will evaluate the feasibility of their ideas.  Students will use the recommendations to alter aspects of their idea.  Students will construct a final model to present.
  • Lesson 7Persuasive Speaking.  Students will learn the art of persuasive speaking.  In the presenting of any idea to either a business or human service organization there is an expectation that the presentation meet certain conventions.  Students will write a persuasive speech in accordance with prescribed guidelines.
  • Lesson 8 Selling an Idea.  Students will promote their idea to an audience comprised of invited guests.   Students will work to gain support for their ideas while employing the lessons presented throughout the unit.
  • Lesson 9Community Action.  Students will be introduced to members of the community whose efforts have brought about positive change.  Students will hear the stories that had inspired each of these individuals to get involved.

National Standards

Geography Standard 1.  Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns Standard 4.  Understands patterns of change and continuity in the historical succession of related events Standard 5.  Knows how to impose temporal structure on their historical narratives (e.g., working backward from some issue, problem, or event to explain its causes that arose from some beginning and developed through subsequent transformations over time) Standard 4.  Geography  Understands the physical and human characteristics of place 1.  Knows the human characteristics of places (e.g., cultural characteristics such as religion, language, politics, technology, family structure, gender; population characteristics; land uses; levels of development) 2.  Knows the physical characteristics of places (e.g., soils, land forms, vegetation, wildlife, climate, natural hazards) 3.  Knows how technology shapes the human and physical characteristics of places (e.g., satellite dishes, computers, road construction) 4.  Knows how technology shapes the human characteristics of places. Standard 11.  Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth’s surface. 2.  Understands issues related to the spatial distribution of economic activities (e.g., the impact of economic activities in a community on the surrounding areas, the erect of the gradual disappearance of small-scale retail facilities such as corner general stores and gas stations, the economic and social impacts on a community when a large factory or other economic activity leaves and moves to another place.) Standard 2.  Understands and applies basic principles of logic and reasoning. 1.   Generates alternative courses of action and compares the possible consequences of each alternative. 2.  Selects the most appropriate strategy alternative for solving a problem. Arts and Communication Standard 2.  Knows and applies appropriate criteria to arts and communication products 7.  Uses criteria and judgment to determine the differences between the artist’s intent and public interpretation Working With Others Standard 4.  Displays effective interpersonal communication skills 4.  Provides feedback in a constructive manner, and recognizes the importance of seeking and receiving constructive feedback in a nondefensive manner 7.  Responds to speaker appropriately (e.g., does not react to a speaker’s inflammatory deliverance, maintains objectivity, reacts to ideas rather than to the person presenting the ideas) Civics Standard 27.  Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens' ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities 8.  Understands the importance of dispositions that incline citizens toward public affairs such as civic mindedness and patriotism Civics Standard 10.  Understands the roles of voluntarism and organized groups in American social and political life. 2.  Knows services that are provided by charitable, religious, and civic groups in the community (e.g., health, child, and elderly care; disaster relief; counseling; tutoring; basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter) 3.  Knows volunteer opportunities that exist in one's own school and community. Standard 19.  Understands what is meant by "the public agenda," how it is set, and how it is influenced by public opinion and the media 1.  Knows that the public agenda consists of those matters that occupy public attention at any particular time (e.g., crime, health care education, child care, environmental protection, drug abuse) 2.  Knows how the public agenda is shaped by political leaders, interest groups, and state and federal courts; and understands how individual citizens can help shape the public agenda (e.g., by joining interest groups or political parties, making presentations at public meetings, writing letters to government officials and to newspapers) 6.  Understands how individual citizens can help shape the public agenda 8.  Knows that individual citizens can help shape public agenda by making presentations at public meetings Language Arts Standard 1.  Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 10. Writes persuasive compositions (e.g., engages the reader by establishing a context, creating a persona, and otherwise developing reader interest; develops a controlling idea that conveys a judgment; creates and organizes a structure appropriate to the needs and interests of a specific audience; arranges details, reasons, examples, and/or anecdotes persuasively; excludes information and arguments that are irrelevant; anticipates and addresses reader concerns and counter arguments; supports arguments with detailed evidence, citing sources of information as appropriate) 5.  Uses a variety of techniques to provide supporting detail  (e.g., analogies; anecdotes; restatements; paraphrases; examples; comparisons; visual aids, such as tables, graphs, and pictures) 2.  Drafting and Revising: Uses a variety of strategies to draft and revise written work (e.g., analyzes and clarifies meaning, makes structural and syntactical changes, uses an organizational scheme, uses sensory words and figurative language, rethinks and rewrites for different audiences and purposes, checks for a consistent point of view and for transitions between paragraphs, uses direct feedback to revise compositions) 11.  Writes compositions that address problems/solutions (e.g., identifies and defines a problem in a way appropriate to the intended audience, describes at least one solution, presents logical and well-supported reasons) 3.  Editing and Publishing: Uses strategies to edit and publish written work (e.g., edits for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling at a developmentally appropriate level; uses reference materials; considers page format [paragraphs, margins, indentations, titles]; selects presentation format according to purpose; incorporates photos, illustrations, charts, and graphs; uses available technology to compose and publish work) Standard 3.  Uses critical and creative thinking in various arts and communication settings. Standard 8.  Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 5.  Uses level-appropriate vocabulary in speech (e.g., metaphorical language, specialized language, sensory details) 6.  Makes oral presentations to the class (e.g., uses notes and outlines; uses organizational pattern that includes preview, introduction, body, transitions, conclusion; uses a clear point of view; uses evidence and             arguments to support opinions; uses visual media) 7.  Uses appropriate verbal and nonverbal techniques for oral presentations (e.g., inflection/modulation of voice, tempo, word choice, grammar, feeling, expression, tone, volume, enunciation, physical gestures, body movement, eye contact, postu re) 8.  Evaluates strategies used by speakers in oral presentations (e.g., persuasive techniques, verbal messages supported by nonverbal techniques, effect of word choice, use of slanted or biased material) 9. Understands the ways in which language differs across a variety of social situations (e.g., formal and informal speech in different social situations, use of jargon by sports commentators to make listeners feel like insiders) 10. Understands elements of persuasion and appeal in spoken texts (e.g., purpose and impact of pace, volume, tone, stress, music; images and ideas conveyed by vocabulary)

 Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards: History/Social Studies

Grade 6-8

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3 Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

Craft and Structure:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.5 Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6 Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

English Language Arts Standards: Reading Informational Text

Grade 6-8    

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.2 Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.3 Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.5 Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to the development of the ideas.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.6 Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.7 Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium's portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.8 Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-7.9 Analyze how two or more authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information by emphasizing different evidence or advancing different interpretations of facts.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6-8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

English Language Arts Standards Writing 

Grade 6-8

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.A Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories as appropriate to achieving purpose; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.B Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.C Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.D Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)


  Lesson 1
  • Students will be able to evaluate how impressions change as one becomes more informed.
  • Students will be able to articulate the historical changes Winsted has been through.
Lesson 2
  • Students will be able to articulate step one of the design process.
  • Student teams, using video cameras will record their first impressions of the area.
  • Students will draw conclusions about how both a community’s attributes and detractions impact the impressions of people that view them.
  • Students will present their findings to the group.
Lesson 3
  • Using the document entitled “Foothills of the Berkshires,” prepared by Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates, have students read each section and identify factors that have contributed to the conclusions cited in the document.
  • Students will list the factors that they believe are most important in understanding the needs of the community.
  • Students teams will identify a problem that they will choose to work on.
Lesson 4
  • Students will follow the guidelines associated with brainstorming.  These being: to concentrate on generating many ideas; no criticism; freewheeling; piggy-backing encouraged; do not elaborate.
  • Students will follow a model to construct a problem statement.
  • Students will brainstorm multiple solutions to the challenge that they elect to work on.
  • Students will select a solution from their list by evaluating how each solution meets the needs that are stated in the problem statement.
  • Students will create an action plan that is based on the solution that they have selected and the parameters that have been identified.
Lesson 5
  • Students will articulate what the solution is, how the solution will work, where the solution will be employed, who will employ the solution, and how long it will take for the solution to work.
  • Students will create a first draft rendering that promotes the design that they are trying to create.
Lesson 6
  • Students will consult with experts in a variety of fields to provide them with advice from other points of view.
  • Students will construct a final model of their solution to be presented before members of the community, town planners and officials.
Lesson 7
  • Using a formula for persuasive speaking students will prepare a formal presentation of their idea.
Lesson 8
  • Students will work persuade the audience of the feasibility of their idea.
  • Students will employ the elements of persuasive speaking.
Lesson 9
  • Students will recognize the reasons that inspired various members of the community to come forth and work for change.
  • Students will realize the positive changes that have been made in Winsted as a result of the voluntarism of a number of civic minded individuals.
  • Students will set up personal goals to get involved.



  • butcher paper
  • markers
  • tape
  • rulers
  • easels
  • journals
  • poster paper
  • glue stick
  • pipe cleaners
  • Styrofoam baseboard
  • glue guns
  • color gels
  • clay
  • modeling paint
  • pens


Lesson 1
  • mill town: also known as factory town or mill village, is typically a settlement that developed around one or more mills or factories
  • brownfield: an abandoned, vacant, derelict, or underutilized commercial or industrial property where past actions have resulted in actual or perceived contamination and where there is an active potential for redevelopment
  • Environmental Protection Agency: governmental agency responsible for the enforcement of environmental laws
  • abatement: a reduction or decrease
  • infrastructure: the public facilities and services needed to support residential development, including highways, bridges, schools, and sewer and water systems
  • tax base: the pool of property, value or income from which a government may draw assessments
  Lesson 2
  • design: plan something for a specific role or purpose or effect; make a design of; plan out in systematic, often graphic form
  • context: the set of facts or circumstances that surround a situation or event
  • attribute: a characteristic or quality of a thing, often positive
  • detraction: something that takes away from the value or reputation of
    Lesson 3
  • demographics: the study of, or information about, people's lifestyles, habits, population movements, spending, age, social grade, employment, etc.
  • geographic layout: the way a community, building, or area is spacially planned
  • commercial viability: determining whether a product or idea is sellable
  • market niche: a specialized portion of a market
    Lesson 4
  • key verb phrase: one key verb in a phrase connected with only one object, that mandates what will be done to solve the underlying problem
  • parameters: measurable characteristics or features; any of a set of physical properties whose values determine the characteristics or behavior of something
  • piggybacking: to set up or cause to function in conjunction with something larger, more important, or already in existence or operation
    Lesson 7
  • persuasive speaking: making listeners feel a certain way about an idea or a product, convincing them to agree with an opinion, or encouraging an action or a response
  • audience: a gathering of spectators or listeners, usually at a public performance
    Lesson 9
  • volunteerism: the willingness of people to work on behalf of others without the expectation of pay or other tangible gain
  • civic action: non-violent action conducted for political purposes


Lesson 1 (1 hour)     1.  Using butcher paper present a blank T-chart to the students.  On the left hand side of the T-chart place a "+", and on the right hand side place a "-". 2.  Ask the students to volunteer all of the positive impressions that they hold, or that they have heard about. Write these on the left hand side.  Do the same for negative impressions.  Depending on the weight of negatives versus positive talk about the origins of these impressions and discuss their validity.  Channel the discussion to focus on taking pride in one's community and what that involves. 3.  Introduce speaker (either teacher, or member from the Winsted Historical Society). 4.  Students will listen to a narrative that describes the history of Winsted, Connecticut. 5.  Students will record their impressions of Winsted, Connecticut post presentation. 6.  Facilitator will record on butcher paper the contributions made by each student. 7.  Students will share with group any changes that they may have regarding their perceptions of Winsted and discuss the reasons for this change in point of view. 8.  Closure:  Learning to See.  Have students summarize the value that an understanding of history brings to developing a broader and deeper appreciation of their community. Lesson 2 (3 Hours)     1.  Inform students that the focus of this academy is to understand the principles associated with design and to apply these principles in developing a plan that expands the draw of Main Street, Winsted, CT to the residents of surrounding communities.   Discuss how everything that they use, and often take for granted, are products of design.  Explain that designers typically engage in a series of steps to help them achieve what they are asked to create.  These include:     Step 1:  Problem Recognition Step 2:  Research, Analysis and Problem Definition Step 3:  Prototyping and Testing Step 4:  Critical Evaluation Step 5:  Revisiting Your Design Scheme Step 6:  Adoption and Implementation     2.  Explain to the students that, as designers,Step 1: Problem Recognition is perhaps the most important aspect of design because it is up to the designer to acknowledge the needs of their clients.  Ask students how they would go about learning what their clients are asking for.  Spend time developing a list of ideas and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their proposals.  To illustrate this premise present a slide that depicts three different types of coffee mugs (tea cup, wide-based bottom, and thermos) and tell students that each one of these cups serve the exact same purpose.  Ask students to explain why each design is different.  After reflecting on student conclusions tell students that their first job will be to tour the Main Street area to record their observations of the things that promote positive impressions of the area, and things that might elicit negative feelings about the area. 3.  Break students into groups of three or four, supply them with video cameras, tour sheet (link to sheet), and maps of the area.  Identify on the maps the areas that they will be visiting on their tour.  Students will be given an hour and fifteen minutes to complete their tour, and record their findings. 4.  Students will then return to the classroom and download their pictures on the computer.  At this point teams will be given forty five minutes to create a presentation that identifies their initial reaction to the Main Street area. 5.  The final thirty minutes of the class will be used to share each team's presentation and record on butcher paper student observations.  Utilizing a Venn diagram display those things that each group had in common.     Lesson 3 (2 hours) 1.  Remind students about the importance that acknowledging the needs of the client plays in identifying the problem that they will ultimately address. 2.  Distribute the document “Foothills of the Berkshires”     Depending on the age group of your students initiate an appropriate reading strategy to read this lengthy document.  Remember that the objective is to understand the type of data needed in order to determine what the client is looking to do.  Read the sections that include:  The Introduction, Liabilities, Assets & Opportunities, Sources of Demand, and Market Niche'.  (For teachers who do not have such a report, see Reflections.) 3.  Have each team generate a list of the factors that they feel are most important in helping them to identify the need to be addressed.  For example, in reading about liabilities students should identify any of the following obstacles that stand in the way of Winsted’s ability to expand it market draw as a hub of commerce. a.  Lacks uniform and consistent retail space b.  Lacks convenient parking c.  Lacks high visibility and access to major arteries d.  Mill buildings are visual bookends of Main Street so their rehabilitation is vital, however they remain vacant or underutilized e.  Lack of parking around the mill buildings represents an impediment to rehabilitation f.  Brownfield issues make conversion of these buildings for residential purposes impractical g.  Commercial rents are too low to encourage upgrading by landlords h.  The downtown lacks a unified physical design:  river walk, mills and Main Street are three separate experiences. i.  Roadway design is treated as a major traffic artery j. Winsted’s Main Street is two miles in length making it too long to promote a cohesive and consistent experience. k. Winsted lacks a sense of gateway due to both low signage and an inadequate visitor’s center. l. The local population of Winsted is declining and thus the disposable income is dwindling. 4.  Students will continue reading the document in their teams and highlight the points that best illustrate wh at    the client needs might be.  (In this case the client is the community of Winsted.)     Lesson 4 (2 hours) 1.  Remind students that the scenario that they are working on is to develop a plan that will help to encourage more positive impressions of the community and thus help to expand the interest of residents in surrounding communities to see Winsted as a viable hub for commerce.   2.  Problem Identification - During this stage students are to reflect upon their research and their tour of Winsted and to brainstorm at least fifteen things that they believe act to promote negative impressions of the community.  After twenty minutes are up, close the brainstorming session.   3.  Ask students to review their list of challenges and to select the one challenge that their team will work to address.   4.  The Problem Statement - In writing a problem statement students work to articulate the nature of the challenge as clearly as possible. Example of a problem statement:  How might we increase the use of alternative wind energy sources so that our dependence on foreign fuel source diminishes over the next ten years?   5.   Produce solution ideas - In finding a solution we ask that the students once again employ the ground rules of brainstorming.  Given twenty minutes students will generate a list of many, varied and creative solution ideas to solve the underlying problem.  The goal is fifteen elaborated solutions.  The solutions must be relevant to both the key verb phrase and the purpose.  The solutions must include the following components:             Who indicates who will implement the solution idea.             What indicates the solution idea.             How describes how the solution will work.             Why indicates why the solution idea will solve the key verb phrase and purpose.             Where describes specific relevant places necessary for the solution idea to occur.             When designates a timeline, a specific date for completion, timeframes for specific ideas to occur.     6.  Generate the criteria through which to select a solution.  In this step students will generate five criteria that they will measure their solution ideas by.  The criterion are:
  • based on the ideas from the underlying problem
  • can be applied to nearly every solution  (i.e., cost, aesthetics, etc.)
  • relevancy
    7.  Students will then rank each solution idea with the criterion on a scale from 1 (worst) to 5 (best).  The solution idea with the highest number will be selected as their solution plan.   8.  Develop an action plan - Student groups will now begin to put their action plan together.  In developing this plan students must identify:  Who will carry out the plan?  What will be done to solve the problem? Where with the plan be implemented? Why will this positively impact society?  How will the action plan be carried out? How does it positively impact the underlying problem? Lesson 5 (1 hour)   1.  Have students review their solution statement.  Students should be able to explain what the solution is, how the solution will work, where the solution will be employed, who will employ the solution, and how long it will take for the solution to work.   2.  Provide students with butcher paper, rulers, protractors, t-squares to help them create a rendering of their plan. Lesson 6 (3 Hours)   1. Teams will review from their journals the critiques that they had considered from the previous lesson.  Twenty minutes will be given to address any of the "weak links".  Teams will present their ideas to the group and a panel of experts that is made up of architects, community planners, engineers from the EPA, advertisers, and businessmen.   2.  Time will be allotted for general responses, after which the experts will be able to work individually with each team and provide them with advice.   3.  Students will then incorporate any changes to their original plans.  Materials and equipment will be provided to help students construct their final mock-up. Lesson 7 (3 Hours) 1.  Illustrate the power of a well prepared persuasive argument versus that of a weakly prepared argument.  My Cousin Vinny is a great source to harvest these examples from.  Explain to the students that in order to promote their idea they will have to construct a presentation that recognizes the audience that it is being delivered to, and yet still works to convince them of the "Common Sense" of their proposal.  I would recommend taking the time to help students learn the basics of powerful public speaking.     Lesson 8 (2 hours) 1.  Students will be given one hour to practice their speeches and work on any final elements needed for the model. 2.  A panel of guests from the community will be invited to hear their presentations.  Teams will be given ten minutes maximum to present their ideas to the panel.  The panel will have five minutes to ask questions.     Lesson 9 (2 hours) 1.  Members from the civic group Friends of Main Street will be invited to speak to the group about their reasons for forming/joining this group.  They will present a slide show that illustrates the changes that they have already brought about, and the changes that they are working to achieve.   Students will be encouraged to become agents of change in their own way.


Lesson 1    
  • Students will be given a journal to record major learnings throughout the unit.
  • Students will record in their journals their personal impression of the community of Winsted and to support their point of view with specific reasons.
  • Pursuant to the presentation provided by the Winsted Historical Society students will identify specific historic events that either lead them to change their opinions, or helped to reinforce their opinions by recording them in their journal.
  Lesson 2
Students will create a presentation that identifies characteristics that elicit negative reactions toward the Main Street area.
  • In their journals students will describe what they believe might be the overall problem confronting Winsted's Main Street.
    Lesson 3
Mastery of student learning will be identified through the list of problems that they bring to the table, and the factors that they use to support their conclusions.     Lesson 4    
  • Accurate completion of a list of sub problems/challenges.
  • Completion of a problem statement that conforms to the model prescribed.
  Lesson 5    
  • Completion of the first draft will be assessed in accordance with each of the parameters that they are addressing in their problem statement.
  • Journal reflection.  Students will record private plausibility thoughts in their journal.  Often, group members will not surrender thoughts or doubts to spare the feelings of their peers.  Here is an opportunity to have the students articulate any doubts that they may have regarding their idea.  Follow this up with a prompt asking students how might they overcome this obstacle.
  Lesson 6
Write in student journal major learning associated with the impact that criticism had on their final considerations of their solution.
  • Completed model describing their solution.
    Lesson 7
Students will write in their journal ideas that they feel are important in incorporating in with their presentation.
  • Students will record in their journal the ease of difficulty that they had convincing their group of their contribution to the presentation.
    Lesson 8       Lesson 9    
  • Students will record in their journals final reactions to the academy and thoughts about how to integrate themselves in a civic movement dedicated to bringing about change.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Lesson 1      
  • Students can research the history of various buildings on Main Street, Winsted, Connecticut.
  • Students can begin to gather information regarding the efforts of other communities that have reclaimed blighted buildings in an attempt to improve the town facade.
  Lesson 9
Students can view Winsted native Ralph Nader's film "An Uncommon Man".  As a result of watching this film students will note how Ralph Nader's experience is a model of civic action and change.  Students will identify how Nader employed the process of design as he identified design flaws and what he did to bring about change.  Students will recognize the importance perseverance.  

Teacher Reflection

  Lesson 2   Teachers that do not have access to a similar market plan might use the “Foothills of the Berkshire” as a template to identify the factors that their students can research on their own.  Most town clerks, with prior notice, can help students find information regarding the demographics of their town.  An interview with councilmen, or selectmen, can provide information regarding the common complaints or liabilities, as well as the attributes that are lauded by the community.  
  1. wow!I love that you’re taking them into the community to fully immerse them all the components of being a designer and addressing the needs of the client. Conducting research, surveying the land, Analyzing data, presentation of findings, brainstorming, questioning, prototyping for solutions, and testing and evaluating their potential resolutions for this community is an invaluable lesson to them. Awesome!

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