Education, Design & Empowerment: Part Two

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

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Design for the Other 90%

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

One or two fifty-minute class periods


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


Students will:
• investigate the Design for the Other 90% exhibition • explore the connections between education and poverty • analyze, synthesize, and summarize information from diverse resources • design a display highlighting what they have learned • work collaboratively in small groups



Computer with internet access


Building Background Jigsaw Research
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to explore a solution-oriented website focusing on education and poverty. 1. Divide the class into small groups and have them visit the “A Dollar a Day” website that focuses on finding solutions to poverty at The website is divided into varied sections. Tell each group to investigate the resources listed below its name and take notes. Have the students add these notes to the notes they collected in the first part of the lesson. In jigsaw research, each group shares what it learns with the entire class.
Group One Thinkquest: Education and Poverty  Group Two Thinkquest: Schools and Teachers Group Three Thinkquest: Getting Kids to School Group Four Thinkquest: Gender Equality Group Five Thinkquest: Education Case Studies 2. Ask each group to share what it has learned with the entire class.
Steps for Learning Education Presentation
The purpose of this activity is for students to design a physical display highlighting what they have learned about education, poverty, and design. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a copy of the “Education & Design” handout (attached).2. After each group has presented its display, lead a class discussion based on the following questions:
  • What did you learn from your classmates’ work?
  • What was the most compelling display? Why?
  • What could be improved?


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their work. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.
  • Rate the effectiveness of your group brainstorming.
  • Rate how well your research helped you learn about poverty and education.
  • Rate the quality of your analysis of the components you would need to create your display.
  • Rate the overall quality of your presentation.
  • Rate how well you were able to convey a message about education and poverty.
  • Rate how well your group was able to collaborate.
  • Rate your creativity.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Women & Poverty
Ask your students to conduct additional research that focuses on the role women play in using education to eradicate poverty. A good Web site to use to begin researching is Heifer International
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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