Put Out to Dry . . . Not in My Back Yard

By Bradley Uebelhor, September 6, 2009

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Green Design

Subject Area

  • Technology

Lesson Time

180 minutes for classroom activities


While many people are interested in going green and even more people are interested in saving money, local covenants must be maintained.  This lesson addresses solving a technological problem by using the design process.  The solution must meet the needs of people, social structures, and the environment, and should take into consideration the positive--and possible negative--impacts on these groups.

National Standards

Technology Standard 3. Level III.  Understands the relationships among science, technology, society and the individual 5. Knows ways in which technology and society influence one another (e.g., new products and processes for society are developed through technology; technological changes are often accompanied by social, political, and economic changes; technology is influenced by social needs, attitudes, values, and limitations, and cultural backgrounds and beliefs) 6. Knows ways technology is used to protect the environment and prevent damage caused by nature (e.g., new building technologies protect cities from earthquakes, bacteria are used in cleaning water) Standard 4. Level III.  Understands the nature of technological design 1. Knows that the design process is a slow, methodical process of test and refinement 2. Knows that the design process relies on different strategies: creative brainstorming to establish many design solutions, evaluating the feasibility of various solutions in order to choose a design, and troubleshooting the selected design 3. Identifies appropriate problems which can be solved using technological design (e.g., identifies a specific need, considers its various aspects, considers criteria for a suitable product) 4. Designs a solution or product, taking into account needs and constraints (e.g., cost, time, trade-offs, properties of materials, safety, aesthetics) 5. Implements a proposed design (e.g., organizes materials and other resources, plans one’s work, makes use of group collaboration when appropriate, chooses suitable tools and techniques, works with appropriate measurement methods to ensure accuracy) 6. Evaluates the ability of a technological design to meet criteria established in the original purpose (e.g., considers factors that might affect acceptability and suitability for intended users or beneficiaries; develop measures of quality with respect to these factors), suggests improvements, and tries proposed modifications 7. Understands that nonphysical objects (e.g., software) and physical objects (e.g., a telephone) are both subject to the design process 8. Knows that invention is the process of creating a new system or object out of an idea while innovation is the process of modifying an existing system or object to improve it (e.g., the specialization of function of a subsystem) Standard 6. Level III. Understands the nature and uses of different forms of technology 3. Knows that most technological systems require an input of energy, which is an important consideration both in designing an object or a system and in conserving energy (e.g., so many things require energy that alternative sources to fossil fuels should be used when possible) 6. Knows that manufacturing processes use hand tools, human-operated machines, and automated machines to separate, form, combine, and condition natural and synthetic materials; these changes may either be physical or chemical


The students will be able to:
  • discuss the pros and cons of neighborhood covenants
  • explain the difference between building codes, zoning, and neighborhood covenants
  • brainstorm ideas in a group setting
  • sketch ideas of a proposed design solution
  • build a model of a proposed design solution
  • work through the design and problem solving processes


Everything you wanted to know about line drying, but were afraid to ask: http://laundrylist.org/index.php Article in the New York Times about using a clothes line: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/garden/12clothesline.html?_r=1 Excellent source of “green codes”: http://www.smartcommunities.ncat.org/greendev/codes.shtml Good explanation of building codes and zoning: http://www.naralicensing.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=27


  • pencils - regular and colored
  • paper - unlined and construction
  • fishing line
  • various size rubber bands
  • hot glue gun
  • tape - clear, duct, masking, packaging
  • scissors
  • floral wire
  • wire cutter
  • poster board
  • wooden craft sticks
  • bamboo skewers
  • drinking straws


  • covenant: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement; a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action
  • brainstorming: a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem
  • ordinance: an authoritative decree or direction; an order; a law set forth by a governmental authority; a municipal regulation (Zoning ordinances typically divide an area into districts or zones -- residential, commercial, and industrial -- and require that property use conform to the zone type.)


Day 1: Teaching the design process and brainstorming ideas and beginning model building Design process : 1. Leading the students through the design process: a.  Reviewing the challenge: The students will be given the design challenge (problem) to be solved. b.  Investigate: The students browse the internet for various clothes line designs.  The students will ask their parents/guardians if they ever used a clothes line and what did it look like and why did they ever use such a thing.  The students will search for five other neighborhood ordinances to broaden their scope of such ordinances and how things differ from their neighborhood to other neighborhoods. c.  Frame the Problem: Did the students’ research change their thinking of the problem? d.  Generate Possible Solutions: The students will brainstorm ideas to solve the problem.  Brainstorming is part of the problem-solving process which will already have been discussed and practiced. e.  Edit and Develop the Idea: The students will each take one of the brainstormed ideas that they think has potential and make a sketch of that particular idea. f.  Share and Evaluate: After sketching ideas, the students will share their ideas and sketches with others in their group. g.  Finalize the Solution: The students will pick the best solution from their group and make a model with supplied materials. h.  Articulate the Solution and Process: The students will present to the rest of the class their design and explain how their design solved the problem. 2.  After teaching the design process, the class will be broken into groups of four and brainstorm ideas for the portable clothesline. Day 2: Introduce the problem 1.  Ask and discuss: What is the purpose of a clothes line? 2.  Discuss why someone would want to put such a device in their backyard. 3.  Discuss the energy savings of a clothes line over an electric or gas dryer. 4.  Explain what building codes, zoning laws and neighborhood covenants are. 5.  Ask and discuss why there are such codes, laws and covenants. Day 3: 1.  Brainstorm possible solutions. 2.  Edit and develop the idea. 3.  Share and evaluate the idea. 4.  Start to build model of idea. Day 4: 1.  Finish building models. 2.  The students will present their idea to the class. 3.  The students will fill out self-evaluation.


Reflection 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 presentation.  Excellent____ Good____ Adequate____ Poor____ Rate how clearly you communicated your ideas. 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____ Excellent = 10 points Good = 7 points Adequate = 5 points Poor = 2 points Total for activity = 70 points possible

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