Every Object Tells a Story

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, January 4, 2008

Grade Level

  • High School

Category

  • Design for the Other 90%

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

One to two fifty-minute class periods

Introduction

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%.” Every object in this exhibition tells a story. In this lesson, students will explore these stories and create their own story about an object in the exhibition.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards
Strand Reading
Language Arts - Reading
Language Arts - Writing
Working With Others

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Objectives

Students will:
  • learn about varied aspects of the design process
  • explore the Design for the Other 90% exhibition
  • conduct internet research
  • create a story based on objects from the exhibition
  • create a class presentation
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • work collaboratively in small groups

Resources

Materials

Computer with internet access

Procedures

Building Background Activity One: About the Exhibition
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with background information about the Design for the Other 90% exhibition.
1. Tell your students that they are going to learn about Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s Design for the Other 90% exhibition. As a class, visit the exhibition website at http://www.designother90.org/about/ and read the introduction aloud. Then, watch a brief video introduction to design at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g37QUl6RPI. 2. Ask the students to write a list of five questions that they have about the exhibition and save it for use later in the lesson.
Activity Two: Digging Deeper
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with background information about the Design for the Other 90% exhibition.
1. Have the students listen to the National Public Radio podcast entitled “Functional Designs that Change Lives” at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11032381. This podcast highlights the Design for the Other 90% exhibition.
2. Ask your students to take notes as they listen and save them to use later in the lesson.
Activity Three: Jigsaw Learning
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to explore the broad range of objects featured in the Design for the Other 90% exhibition.
1. Divide the class into six groups. Tell the students that they are going to choose two objects from their assigned theme, and prepare a brief presentation describing the objects. Descriptions of the objects can be found at http://www.designother90.org/solutions/?exhibition=12.
  • Group One: Shelter
  • Group Two: Health
  • Group Three: Water
  • Group Four: Education
  • Group Five: Energy
  • Group Six: Transport
2. After the students have finished their presentations, invite them to discuss what they have learned about the objects in the exhibition.
Steps for Learning
1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a copy of the “Tell a Story” handout. Tell the students that they are going to choose an object from the Design for the Other 90% exhibition and tell its story.
2. After each group has finished the handout and presented its work, lead a class discussion based on the following questions:
  • What did you learn from your classmates’ presentations?
  • What was the best part of each presentation?
  • What different ways did your classmates choose to tell a story?

Assessment

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 quality of your group’s brainstorming.
  • Rate the quality of your group’s ability to analyze the elements of your task.
  • Rate the quality of your group’s story.
  • Rate the quality of your group’s presentation in conveying its ideas.
  • Rate your creativity.
  • Rate how well your group was able to collaborate.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Share the Stories
Ask the students to create alternative formats to share their stories. For example, they can compile them on a class website, create a book, scan them to create a multimedia slide show, or develop a podcast.
Differentiation for Elementary School:
Students can draw pictures, write short stories, create poems or songs or write a short skit about the design they chose from the point of view of a child their age who uses it. Share their thoughtful creations with your students' families.
Differentiation for Middle School:
Brainstorm ideas with your students about what they can do to help the other 90%: immediately, in the near future (within the end of the year) and in the distant future. Students can design an informational packet, website, podcast or infographic of these ideas, along with their research, to share with other students and community members.
  1. As a warm up to this lesson, I would have the students bring in one objects that they value highly. At the start of the lesson, you can create a warm up in which the students analyze the object’s features and functions. They will then be required to use their analysis of their object to try to “sell” it to the class. By doing this the students and class can see the design components that were involved with the object.

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