Tell Me about it: What is Design? Creating a Design Workshop (Part 2)

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

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods


What role does design play in everyday life? In the second part of this two-part lesson, students will apply what they have learned about the design process by creating a design workshop for elementary school students.

National Standards

Common Core Literacy for Other Subjects 
Common Core English Language Arts 
Language Arts - Reading
Language Arts - Writing
Working With Others
Visual Arts


Students will:
  • analyze the components of the design process
  • view and analyze design videos
  • respond to journal prompts
  • participate in small-group and large-group discussion
  • work collaboratively in small groups
  • create a design workshop



  • Computer with internet access


Building Background
Activity One: Introducing Design Concepts The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an understanding of basic design concepts by viewing two videos.
1. Review the following steps of the design process with your class:
  • STEP ONE: Identify the problem. Brainstorm ideas.
  • STEP TWO: Analyze the elements you will need to solve the problem.
  • STEP THREE: Create your design plan and presentation.
  • STEP FOUR: Evaluate your design. Share your design and ask for feedback. Discuss how you might make changes and improvements to your design.
  • STEP FIVE: Communicate. Share your design plan.
2. As a class, watch the “Shortened IDEO Shopping Cart Video” at Ask your students what they learned about design from this video. 3. Watch the following TED video entitled “Emily Pilloton: Teaching Design for Change” at Ask your students what they learned about design from this video. 4. Lead a class discussion comparing the information in the two video clips. Activity Two: Reflecting On Design The purpose of this activity is to help students reflect on their understanding of the ways design is defined. 1. Ask your students to respond to the following quotations in a writing journal:
  • “Design is both a verb and a noun.”
  • “Design allows us both to respond and invent.”
  • “The act of designing is carried out in many different ways, from the personal choices we make when we set the table or plant a garden, to the collective decisions made in the marketplace or at city hall.”
  • Design education encourages your students to see themselves as designers in their own right as they engage in the design process through active observation, critical discussion, hands-on activities, visual communication and presentation, and critique.

2. Invite students to share their responses to each of the quotations. Compare, analyze, and discuss students’ thoughts.

Steps for Learning
Creating a Design Workshop The purpose of this activity is to give students an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned about design.
1. Divide the class into small groups and give each group a copy of the “Design Workshop” handout (attached). Tell the students that they are going to create a workshop for elementary school students to help them learn about design. Remind the students to use the background information on design that they learned in the first part of this two-part lesson. 2. Have students share their design plan with the class.


Create a class rubric to evaluate the students’ workshop design. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.
  • Rate the effectiveness of your workshop in conveying information about design concepts.
  • Rate the effectiveness of your overviews of five fields of design.
  • Rate how effectively your workshop incorporates the People’s Design Award website as a tool for learning about design.
  • Rate the effectiveness of your hands-on design activity.
  • Rate the effectiveness of your group’s brainstorming in generating ideas.
  • Rate how effectively you analyze the information you used to identify your problem.
  • Rate the effectiveness of your solution.
  • Rate how clearly you communicate your solution.
  • Rate your creativity.
  • Rate how well your group is able to collaborate.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Differentiation for Elementary School:
Have students participate in a Ready, Set, Design workshop: Invite another elementary school class to participate in a Ready, Set, Design workshop to be led by your students. Your students can design new challenge cards and gather materials for their peers' workshop.
Differentiation for High School:
Ask your students to investigate the design process further by learning about Cooper-Hewitt's City of Neighborhoods project. Use the websites below as resources:
Students can design a program or workshop for City of Neighborhoods.

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