Innovations That Stand the Test of Time

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

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Design for the Other 90%

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s exhibition Design for the Other 90% explores a growing movement among designers to design low-cost solutions for the 90% of the world’s population who have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted. In this lesson, students will gather information on one of the innovations presented on the website and create a presentation describing why they think it will be included someday on timelines of great inventions.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards
Strand Reading
Strand Writing
Engineering Education
Level IV. Standard 13. Understands the scientific enterprise
History Historical Understanding
Level IV. Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective
Language Arts - Writing
Language Arts - Speaking and Listening

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

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 Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

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.

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.


Students will:
• explore the value of innovation in society • examine the interrelationships among math, science, technology, and engineering in society • analyze the benefits of new and productive innovations • conduct internet research to gather data • create a class presentation



Building Background Activity One: Change, Risk & the Value of Innovation
The purpose of this activity is to help students explore how innovation is part of society and how it is valued. 1. As a class, read the story “The Vision of Doofty Girl” found at Discuss its meaning, using the following questions as guidelines:
  • What were some of the issues facing the Hard Working Survivor Tribe?
  • What was Doofty’s idea?
  • What were the advantages/disadvantages of Doofty’s idea?
  • What did the people of the tribe think of Doofty’s idea?
  • What did the people of the tribe do to Doofty?
  • Can you think of other innovators whose ideas were ridiculed?
  • Why do you think people are often reluctant to change the way they do things?
  • What distinguished Doofty from her tribe?
  • What is the message of Doofty’s story?
2. Divide the class into groups of three students. Ask each group to write a newspaper headline capturing the essence of “The Vision of Doofty Girl.”
Activity Two: Math, Science, Technology, and Engineering
The purpose of this activity is for students to understand the interrelationship of math, science, technology, and engineering. 1. Divide the students into three groups and assign each group one of the attached passages.2. Give the groups time to read the passage and ask them to create a two- to three-sentence summary.3. Invite each group to read its summary statement aloud. After the summary presentations are finished, ask the students to discuss what the three passages have in common.4. Ask the students to respond in writing journals to the following prompt:• How are math, science, technology, and engineering interrelated in their quest to solve problems?5. Invite students to share their responses with their classmates.
Steps for Learning Activity One: Inventions Through Time
The purpose of this activity is for students to learn about various inventions.
1. As a class, visit the following websites. Each includes a timeline of various inventions throughout the centuries. Choose five different inventions and discuss how they solved problems and improved lives. Technology Timeline: 1750-1990 FactMonster: Science: Timeline of Everyday Inventions
Activity Two: Add an Invention
The purpose of this activity is for students to create a presentation about one of the innovations presented on the Cooper-Hewitt Design for the Other 90% website. 1. As a class, visit Cooper-Hewitt’s Design for the Other 90% website at Invite students to read the introduction aloud. Discuss the objectives of the Design for the Other 90% project.
2. Tell the students that they have learned about various inventions that have benefited society through the years. Their task is now to choose an invention from the Design for the Other 90% website that they think will someday be included on timelines of significant inventions. 3. Divide the students into groups and give each group a copy of the “Have You Heard About This?” handout. Ask the students to create a presentation on the invention they are choosing to add to the timeline.
3. After all groups have made their presentations, take a class vote on which invention will most likely be included on future timelines.


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 how well you understood the concept presented in Doofty’s story.
  • Rate how well you understood the interrelationships among math, science, technology, and engineering.
  • Rate how well you understood the concept behind the innovations on the Design for the Other 90% website.
  • Rate the choice of invention made by your group.
  • Rate the quality of your group’s presentation.
  • Rate your participation in the design of your group’s presentation.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Differentiation for Elementary School:
Conduct a scavenger hunt with your students. In groups, students search for inventions from the timelines and bring them in to the class. The group that can find the most inventions wins.
Differentiation for Middle School:
The students have learned about many inventions that have solved problems and improved lives. Ask them to come up with their own invention that could help solve a world problem.

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