Two years ago, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum closed for renovations and the opportunity opened up to explore a school-based program: Design in the Classroom.  This free 45-minute, single visit workshop introduces K-12 students to design thinking.  In short, design thinking is a term describing the way designers critically assess the "things" all around us. They use various strategies, including problem identification, to visualize and prototype ways of improving or adapting those "things" depending on the need of the user. Since its inaugural 2011-2012 academic year, the program has reached 36,000 New York City students and has helped hundreds of classroom teachers integrate design thinking to their curriculum. 

During this time I have observed dozens of workshops and have found there is a consistent enthusiastic response by students when asked to talk about their experience with everyday objects (e.g. school furniture).  The high level of student engagement is facilitated by our Design Educators, who encourage the students to share personal experiences as users of design, and coach their use of teamwork when prototyping solutions during design challenges.

Participating teachers have enthusiastically reported that Design in the Classroom supports the current integration of Common Core Standards in schools.  This national initiative presents a consistent curriculum to all students that focus on college and career readiness skills.  The workshop incorporates many of the Standards’ high-order thinking skills by asking students to:  
• Access their personal experience and content knowledge across a wide range of subject matters to help inform how they use design in their everyday life.
• Respond to an everyday challenge by designing a prototype, demonstrating its use, and explaining its functionality.
• Collaborate and negotiate ideas with others.
• Present their ideas both visually and verbally, to promote proficiency in presenting an idea and receiving critical feedback in order to revise.

Now in our third year, the School Programs team excitedly continues to explore with students the role of design in everyday life, and with teachers, its connection to Common Core Standards.  We welcome all K-12 New York City teachers to register for a free Design in the Classroom workshop. 

All teachers are encouraged to access the workshop’s resources  and explore our online Educator Resource Center , which has more than 400 free, standards-based, design-focused lesson plans written by classroom teachers from around the country. 

Leave a Reply