Problem Solved!: Design Solutions

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 20, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • People's Design Award

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

One to two fifty-minute class periods


Problem solving is an essential component of the design process. In this lesson, students will learn about charrettes, which are creative problem solving processes used by design professionals. They will also view a video that highlights a problem solving design exercise that asks students to create a safe method of transport for an egg. As a final activity, students will explore Cooper-Hewitt's People’s Design Award Web site, which gives the general public an opportunity to nominate and vote for their favorite designs, as they investigate the role of problem solving in the world of design.

National Standards

Standard 7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
Level IV. 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps)
Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process Level IV. 5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience's background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)
Arts Connections
1. Understands connections among the various art forms and other disciplines
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group

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.

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.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Anchor Standards for Writing:

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.

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.

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.


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:
  • conduct Internet research on charrettes
  • create a class presentation
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • work collaboratively in small groups
  • investigate problem-solving design solutions


  • “Design Problem Solved!” handout
  • Internet Web sites


  •   Computer with Internet access


Building Background Activities
Activity One: Exploring Charrettes
The purpose of this activity is to introduce the role of problem solving in the world of design. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Ask each group to take notes on charrettes using the following resources:

2. Ask each group to share its findings with the class in a brief presentation.

3. Ask the students if they know of any other disciplines that use a method similar to a charrette for problem solving.
Steps for Learning
Activity One: Introducing Design in Action
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to learn about the varied components of the design process. 1. As a class, watch the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum's video entitled “Scrambled or Over Easy?” at The video describes a group problem solving exercise to design a safe mode of transport for an egg using a piece of drawing paper and a rubber band. After viewing the video, ask your students to brainstorm answers to the following questions:
  • Why do you think this project was created?
  • What can you learn about design from this project?
  • How would you solve this design problem?
  • What do you think students learned from participating in this project?
  • What constitutes good design?
  • What role does problem solving play in design?
2. Divide the class into small groups. Give the students a copy of the “Design Problem Solved!” handout (attached). 3. Ask each group to present its choice of objects to the entire class.
4. Lead a class discussion comparing the different examples the groups selected, and how problem solving is integral to the design process.


Ask your students to respond in writing to the following question:
  • How is problem solving an essential component of the design process?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Design for Kids
Ask your students to explore the Australian Children’s Television Web site at, which focuses on design and problem solving for children ages 8-12. Have the students write a brief paragraph describing the connection between the design process and the Web site activities.

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