Tour + Workshop: Green Transportation System

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, March 3, 2010

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Green Design

Subject Area

  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

Two 50 minute class periods


In cities and urban areas, moving people from one place to another, whether from home, work, school or to places where they can relax, is a continuous problem that city leaders face. In this activity, students will investigate how transportation has evolved through the years and how it may continue to change to include more green and sustainable technologies. While viewing the exhibition National Design Triennial: Why Design Now? students will see new projects and ideas that address some of these urban issues. Students will also work in small teams to solve a current New York City transportation problem.    

National Standards

Language Arts Grades 3-5 Strand Reading for Informational Text RI.3-5.7. Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur). Strand Writing W.3-5.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly. Strand Speaking and Listening SL.3-5.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. SL.3-5.4. Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace. Geography Standard 10. Level II. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics Benchmark 4. Understands cultural change (in terms of, e.g., the role of women in society, the role of children in society, clothing styles, modes of transportation, food preferences, types of housing, attitudes toward the environment and resources) Standard 15. Level II. Understands how physical systems affect human systems Benchmark 1. Knows how humans adapt to variations in the physical environment (e.g., choices of clothing, housing styles, agricultural practices, recreational activities, food, daily and seasonal patterns of life) History Historical Understanding. Standard 1. Level II. Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns Benchmark 4. Knows how to identify patterns of change and continuity in the history of the community, state, and nation, and in the lives of people of various cultures from times long ago until today Benchmark 5. Distinguishes between past, present, and future time Technology Standard 3. Level II. Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual Benchmark 2. Knows areas in which technology has improved human lives (e.g., transportation, communication, nutrition, sanitation, health care, entertainment) Benchmark 3. Knows that new inventions often lead to other new inventions and ways of doing things Standard 4. Level II. Understands the nature of technological design Benchmark 2. Knows that group collaboration is useful as the combination of multiple creative minds can yield more possible design solutions Benchmark 3. Knows that the design process is a series of methodical steps for turning ideas into useful products and systems Benchmark 7. Evaluates a product or design (e.g., considers how well the product or design met the challenge to solve a problem; considers the ability of the product or design to meet constraints), and makes modifications based on results    


Students will do the following:                  
  • Visit the National Design Triennial: Why Design Now? exhibition and look at projects in the Mobility section.
  • Analyze the progression of inventions in the area of green or energy efficient transportation.
  • In small teams, be assigned two locations in New York City that are currently underserved by mass transit (or in some cases, any transit).
  • Consider ways to solve this current-day transportation problem with energy efficient transportation options.


National Design Triennial 2010: Why Design Now: Metropolitan Transit Authority Website. Use website for finding NYC subway maps:      


  • Copies of NYC five boroughs map
  • Tracing paper to indicate locations
  • Markers
  • Drawing paper
  • Pencils
  • Optional model building supplies


  • Transportation- the business of conveying people, goods, etc.
  • Sustainable transportation- a concept, an ideology and, in some countries, a governmental policy that consists of strengthening or replacing the current transport systems of an urban/suburban area with more fuel-efficient, space-saving and healthy lifestyle-promoting alternatives
  • Green energy- the provision of energy such that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs
  • Biofuel- Fuel produced from renewable resources, especially plant biomass, vegetable oils, and treated municipal and industrial wastes


The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to analyze a problem and brainstorm ways to solve it. 1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each team a set of maps of New York City with two locations marked on these maps. CHOOSE: 1. Eastern Parkway (Brklyn) to Flushing Meadows (Qns); Van Cortland Park (Mnhttn) to Pelham Bay (Brnx); Brooklyn College (Brklyn) to Jamaica Bay (Qns); Bronx Zoo (Brnx) to Roosevelt Island (Mnhttn); Silver Lake Park (Sttn Isl.) to Battery Park (Mnhttn). Tell students that they need to come up with a system to move people from one site to another that is economical, environmentally-friendly, and energy efficient. They should consider whether one of these locations is for work or for recreation and if the means of transport lends itself to the experience (for example: quiet for work travel, fun and relaxation for recreational trip). Explain to students that the goal is to think creatively about an existing problem. It's the thinking process that is important NOT the feasibility of the idea. 2. Have teams write down all their ideas. Ask students to select one of the ideas and draw an illustration of it. If time permits and it makes sense with their proposal, you can provide materials for students to create models for their transportation system. 3. Provide time for students to share their ideas.    


  Each team should be asked the following during their presentations:
  • What sustainable features does your transportation system include?
  • Is your system scalable – can it get bigger or smaller depending on use or population?
  • Does your system take into account the destination of the rider?
  • Does the system work in conjunction with the NYC Metro? Is it separate from all other forms of transportation?
  • Would this system be an adjustment for people or is it similar (inspired by) a current system in use?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Teacher Reflection

  • Decide on most creative and applicable transportation design.
  • Find areas in school to display poster boards.
  • Discuss means of better and more efficient transportation (i.e. carpooling).
  • Write letters to City Council expressing needs of more efficient transportation.

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