Leveraging for a Better Lunch Line Experience

By James Iliff, August 1, 2008

Grade Level

  • High School


  • School Design

Subject Area

  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

3 class periods


Standing in the lunch line at our school is an exercise in chaos, frustration, and violation of others' rights. Little thought has been put into this phenomenon. Through this project students will critically analyze this issue as designers. Students will work in groups to brainstorm solutions to this problem. They will use leveraging to inspire their solutions and make proposals based on their ideas.

National Standards

  Technology Standard 4.  Understands the nature of technological design 1.  Knows that an optimal solution to a design problem is more likely to be found when the process followed is systematic and repetitive. 2.  Proposes designs and uses models, simulations, and other tests to choose an optimal solution. 4.  Evaluates a designed solution and its consequences based on the needs or criteria the solution was designed to meet. 5.  Knows that since there is no such thing as a perfect design, trade-offs of one criterion for another must occur to find an optimized solution. Standard 14.  Uses the design process to solve problems 4.  Understands how societal interests, economics, ergonomics, and environmental considerations influence a solution.  

Common Core Standards

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.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 be able to look around them and see problems as challenges that they can work on improving.
  • Students will be able to work in groups and use the design process to brainstorm, leverage, test, evaluate, and refine ideas.
  • Students will be able to evaluate others' proposals and adopt the best ideas into their own solution.


Use internet to research existing ideas for improving waiting in lines. (example mgtclass.mgt.unm.edu/Stewart/MGT%20523%20-%20Service%20Operations/Lecture%20Files/11%20Waiting%20Lines.ppt)


  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Internet
  • Building supplies when necessary


  • leverage - to use as analogy methods from one area to another.


  Anticipatory Set (15 minutes): 1. Explain to students that everything around them is designed from the landscape to their pants to the school schedule. Not everything is designed well, however. Ask students to give an example of one area in the school that isn't designed very well. 2. Explain to the students that it is their turn to put their minds into designing a better system at school 3. Explain that their task over the next two weeks will be to improve the lunch line process. Journal Activity (15 minutes): 1. Either hand out paper or have the students get out their journals. Have the students write a journal entry reflecting on a typical lunch line experience for them. Write these guiding questions on the board: How long does it take to get through the line? Who do you normally stand next to? What do you normally do with yourself in the line? 2. Instruct the students not to develop solutions at this point but to really focus on living the experience out on paper. 3. Group students into teams of 4-6. Brain Storming Problems Activity (20 minutes): 1. In their groups have students brainstorm all of the problems they can think of related to the lunch line experience. Assign tasks to students. One student is the facilitator, one is a note taker, one is time keeper, two or more can be jump starters. Have students focus only on the problems of the lunch line. Introduce Leverage Activity (15 minutes): 1. Start by showing a picture of an emergency room. Ask if anyone has had to take a relative or friend to the emergency room. Explain the stress associated with having a family member in the emergency room and all of the information that is coming from different places at different times. This is a chaotic event full of anxiety. 2. Explain that hospitals have been working on improving this experience. Show picture of a racetrack pit crew and ask the students what connections can be made between these two events. Explain to the students that the designers working on improving emergency room visits leveraged the operation of pit crews to help solve their problem. Explain the connection between the two. Leverage Research (1 class period): 1. While in their groups have students brainstorm all of the possible places they could leverage from to find solutions to the problems they generated. Have students write their ideas on a sheet and then research those areas (on computers if available). Students will report back with their list of areas to leverage from and specifically which of those areas is most valuable for improving the lunch line experience. Solutions Brainstorming Activity (30 minutes): 1. While students are in their groups have them brainstorm all of the ways that they can use to improve the experience of waiting in the lunch line. Explain and model proper brainstorming (everyone talks; one at a time; engaged listening; no value laden comments, ect.). Immediate Solutions vs. Structural Solutions Activity (30 minutes): 1. As a class begin a conversation about the difference between immediate solutions to problems and structural solutions. Use the analogy of the emergency room, a structural fix (hiring a person to be the hub of information and contact person for the family) vs. an immediate fix (simply installing better chairs in the waiting room). 2. Continuing as a class, have the students give one example of an immediate fix that could be made to the lunch line challenge. Have the students think of one structural change that could be made. 3. Have students get back into their groups and rewrite their solutions into two categories, immediate and structural. Have students post their papers on the walls. Class Presentation and Vetting Activity (30 minutes): 1. Student groups will present their solutions and the areas they leveraged from to the class in a quick verbal manner. Prior to the presentation the class will brainstorm topics that should be covered in each presentation. Examples include: the brainstorming process; where they leveraged their ideas from, the most significant improvements they will make, the materials necessary to get the job done.  After the presentations the class will have time to walk around the class and post notes with comments or questions for each group on each group’s area. The posted notes provide a medium for students to comment or question each other without the possibility of interpersonal conflict. 2. Each group will collect the questions/comments and spend 15 minutes reading them as a group and reflecting on them. The class will come together and each group will read three questions or comments that they found most thought provoking. After the large group conversation around these questions/comments groups will have 15 more minutes to discuss possible changes.


Students will be assessed on their participation in large class discussions and small group discussions. Specifically, students will be assessed on their group cooperation and their contribution to the brainstorming sessions and research session. Each student will be assessed on the presentation of his or her group’s ideas and his or her questions/comments during the mingling session.

Enrichment Extension Activities

1.  This unit could easily be expanded to implementation of the ideas the students choose. 2.  Student groups could choose other areas of the school to focus their design thinking around. For instance, traffic flow during class changeover periods.

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