Education, Design & Empowerment: Part One

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, December 17, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Design for the Other 90%

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

One fifty-minute class period


Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s Design for the Other 90% exhibition demonstrates how design can be a dynamic force in saving and transforming lives, at home and around the world. Of the world’s total population of 6.5 billion, 5.8 billion people, or 90%, have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted. In fact, nearly half do not have regular access to food, clean water, or shelter. Design for the Other 90% explores a growing movement among designers to design low-cost solutions for this “other 90%.” In this two-part lesson, students will explore the relationship between education and poverty, and examine educational design innovations. The first part of the lesson focuses on building background information, and the second part of the lesson focuses on creating a presentation highlighting what the students have learned.

National Standards

Common Core Literacy for Other Subjects 
Common Core English Language Arts 
Language Arts - Reading
Language Arts - Writing
Working With Others

Common Core State Standards

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.)

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).

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

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.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Students will:
• investigate the Design for the Other 90% exhibition • explore the connections between education and poverty • participate in small-group and large-group discussion • analyze, synthesize, and summarize information from diverse resources • create a class presentation • work collaboratively in small groups



Computer with internet access


Building Background
Teacher Note: Finding solutions to poverty is a daunting and complicated task. The goal of this two-part lesson is for students to examine one aspect of the solution: education. Encourage your class to continue to think about the connection between poverty and education as they move through the different lesson activities.
Activity One: Education-Related Design Innovations
The purpose of this activity is to help students explore the connection between education and poverty. 1. Introduce your class to Cooper-Hewitt’s Design for the Other 90% exhibition.2. Have the students view a brief introductory video featuring information about design at
 Ask students to discuss what they learned about this growing design revolution. Encourage them to ask questions.3. Divide the class into five small groups. Assign each group a design innovation to research. Each group will share information about its design innovation with the entire class.Group One: AMD Personal Internet Communicator Two: Kinkajou Microfilm Projector Three: One Laptop per Child Four: Sierra Portable Light Project Five: Solar Home Lighting System Group will then create a presentation that explains each design, its purpose, and the problem it is designed to address. Have the students take notes on each group’s presentation to use later in the lesson activities. After the students are finished with their group presentations, as a class discuss what they learned about education and design.
Activity Two: Examining Education & Poverty
The purpose of this activity is to help students learn background information about the role of education in responding to poverty.
1. Read the following statements aloud to your students:
  • “Education is perhaps the best long-term solution to poverty in the developing world. Time and time again, experts say that educating children, especially girls, is the key to ending the global ‘cycle of poverty.'” Kathleen McHugh, of the non-governmental organization Save the Children says that “Focusing on education is going to have ripple effects… will probably mitigate cases of HIV/AIDS… it is going to open up a lot of economic opportunities as well.”
  • The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “Everyone has the right to an education.” Source:
  • "Education is not a way to escape poverty - It is a way of fighting it." -Julius Nyerere, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania. Source:
2. Ask the students to respond to these statements in writing journals. 3. After the students are finished, divide the class into pairs. Ask the students to discuss their journal responses with their partners. 4. Invite the students to share their responses and the results of their small-group discussion with the entire class.
Activity Three: Independent Research
The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to research organizations that address poverty and education. 1. Tell the students that they must find a minimum of five organizations or initiatives that address the role education plays in eradicating poverty. Two excellent sources to begin with include the following:
2. Compile a class-annotated bibliography of the students’ resources. Ask the students to add this bibliography to their notes to use in the second part of the lesson.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Follow this lesson with Part-Two of the activity.
Differentiation for Elementary School:
  • Instead of a class presentation, younger students can design an informative poster about education and poverty to educate others in their school and community.
  • To get involved, students can raise funds for UNICEF's School-In-A-Box program. A donation of $236 is enough to purchase a School-In-A-Box - a learning kit which gives around 80 children the opportunity to start school.

Differentiation for High School:

  • High school students can choose one challenge that was addressed on the “A Dollar a Day” website (i.e. gender inequality, getting kids to schools, etc.) and design a solution for it in their groups. Students can research what resources would be needed to implement their solution including financial and human resources.

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