Green Stuff: Designing an Earth-Friendly Room

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 11, 2006

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Green Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science

Lesson Time

One or two 50 minute class periods


Thinking green can be an important part of design. In this activity students will explore earth-friendly materials that can be used in home environments. They will learn about the relationship between the environment and design, and use a variety of problem-solving strategies. They will work in collaborative groups to research furniture, bedding, flooring, and other home products, and be given a budget to design a room.  Students will participate in a mock design award presentation highlighting their ideas.

National Standards

3. Knows ways in which organisms interact and depend on one another through food chains and food webs in an ecosystem (e.g., producer/consumer, predator/prey, parasite/host, relationships that are mutually beneficial or competitive) 5. Knows how matter is recycled within ecosystems (e.g., matter is transferred from one organism to another repeatedly, and between organisms and their physical environment; the total amount of matter remains constant, even though its form and location change)
Standard 1. Level III. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 1. Prewriting: Uses a variety of prewriting strategies (e.g., makes outlines, uses published pieces as writing models, constructs critical standards, brainstorms, builds background knowledge) 5. Uses content, style, and structure (e.g., formal or informal language, genre, organization) appropriate for specific audiences (e.g., public, private) and purposes (e.g., to entertain, to influence, to inform)
Standard 4. Level III. Gathers and uses information for research purposes 3. Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics (e.g., magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, schedules, journals, phone directories, globes, atlases, almanacs, technological sources)
Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level III. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 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) 
Working With Others


Students will do the following:
  • engage in active problem solving using varied strategies
  • create a graphic representation of a design plan and budget
  • create a written and oral presentation
  • learn about the relationship between materials and the environment
  • examine the environmental impact of design choices
  • understand the recycling process and its impact on ecosystems
  • understand how organisms interact with one another within an ecosystem
  • conduct Internet research
  • analyze and evaluate information
  • create a design for an earth-friendly room
  • evaluate group work


  • "Design an Earth-Friendly Space" handout


  • computer with Internet access
  • drawing materials
  • markers, pencils, crayons, etc.




Building Background Green: What Does it Mean?

The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to the concept of earth-friendly furniture. 1. As a class, read the CBS News feature entitled Latest In Organic Products: Furniture at Lead a class discussion based on this article. In your discussion, help your students understand the relationship between their actions and the environment. Use the following questions to guide the discussion:
  • What is a "green lifestyle"?
  • How do the materials we use have an impact on the environment?
  • How does recycling benefit an ecosystem?
  • What does organic mean?
  • What are the benefits of using earth-friendly furniture?
  • What surprised you the most when you read this article?
  • Would you buy organic furniture? Why or why not?

Steps for Learning Earth Friendly Design

The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to use the steps of the design process to create an earth-friendly room. 1. Divide the class into four small groups. Give each group a copy of the "Design an Earth-Friendly Space" handout. 2. Provide time for each small group to present its work to the class. Give the students a copy of the "Green Rate Sheet" handout to use in assessing each group's design and presentation. 3. Allow time for the students to review their classmates' comments on the "Design Review" handout. As a class, decide on the categories that will be used in the mock design award program. Encourage the students' creativity as they decide on the categories. Host the awards. 4. Tell the students to use the feedback they received from their classmates as they complete the assessment rubric below.


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their design process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.-How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas? Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor-Rate how effectively you analyzed the information you used to identify your problem. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor-Rate the effectiveness of your solution. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor-Rate how clearly you communicated the problem you wanted to solve. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor-Rate how clearly you communicated your solution. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate your effectiveness as problem solvers. Excellent          Good           Adequate            Poor -Rate your creativity. Excellent           Good           Adequate           Poor

Enrichment Extension Activities

Comparison Shopping: What Will You Find?
Ask your students to compare the cost of five items of furniture that are earth friendly with those that are not. Have the students share their results with the entire class.

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