Science TV: Making It Real

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, December 6, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Design for the Other 90%

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Science

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


Of the world’s total population of 6.5 billion, 5.8 billion people, or 90%, have little or no access to most of the products and services many of us take for granted. In fact, nearly half do not have regular access to food, clean water, or shelter. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s exhibition Design for the Other 90% explores a growing movement among designers to design low-cost solutions for this “other 90%.” In this lesson, students will create and perform a skit for a mock science television show highlighting the design innovations featured in the Design for the Other 90% exhibition.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards
Strand Reading
Strand Writing
Engineering Education
Level IV. Standard 14. Uses the design process to solve problems
Language Arts - Reading
Language Arts - Writing
Working With Others

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.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

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.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.

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.

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.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

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.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.


Students will:
  • explore the ways science is presented in a children’s television show
  • explore the connections between science and design
  • conduct internet research
  • analyze, evaluate, and summarize varied information sources
  • create a skit
  • perform a skit



Computer with internet access


Building Background Activity One: Problem Solving
The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to explore interactive problem-solving.1. Introduce your students to the PBS television show Zoom at Tell the class that Zoom is designed for students ages 5–11, and focuses on hands-on science experiments and activities. Ask the students if they have ever seen the show, and if so, what they thought about it. As a class, explore the website.
Ask for a volunteer to play the interactive game featured on the website entitled “Goldburger to Go” at When you are finished, lead a class discussion about how this program approaches the problem-solving process. Use the following questions as guidelines:
  • What did you learn from playing “Goldburger to Go”?
  • How does this game encourage problem solving?
  • How does this game keep a player interested?
  • What kinds of support did the game give the player?
  • What are some characteristics of hands-on activities?
  • What are some characteristics of interactive games?
  • What are some strategies you use to problem-solve?
2. Divide the class into six small groups. Tell each group that it must select an activity from the “Engineering: Design It” section of the Zoom website at and demonstrate the activity for the class. After each presentation is complete, discuss the science behind the activity and the problem-solving aspect of each activity.
Steps for Learning Activity One: Science and the Solar Kitchen
The purpose of this activity is to allow students to create a mock television show that highlights the problem-solving process.
1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a copy of the Science TV handout. Tell the students that they are going to write a script and perform segments of a mock television show entitled Science TV. 2. After each group has presented its skit, lead a class discussion based on the following questions:
  • What did you learn from your classmates’ skits?
  • What was the most compelling skit? Why?
  • How were the design innovations incorporated into the skit?
  • How was problem-solving incorporated into the skit?
  • What could be improved?


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 the effectiveness of your group brainstorming.
  • Rate the effectiveness of your research on problem-solving and science activities.
  • Rate the quality of your analysis of the components you would need to create your skit.
  • Rate the overall quality of your skit.
  • Rate how well you were able to convey a message about problem-solving.
  • Rate how well you were able to incorporate a design innovation from the Design for the Other 90% exhibition.
  • Rate how well your group was able to collaborate.
  • Rate your creativity.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Activity One: Problem-Solving Across the Curriculum
Have your students investigate the problem-solving process in a variety of content areas. Ask them to find examples from science, math, social studies, and engineering. Have the students share what they find with the class.
Activity Two: Science Television
Have your students investigate additional educational television shows and how they address science and problem-solving. Some programs they might want to use include the following:

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