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Product Designs for a Sustainable Future

The next phase of our fifth grade design unit is to develop new products which are sustainable in some way. 

We begin by thinking through the list of designs we saw in our Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum catalog from the Design Life Now exhibition.  We talk about categories that these designs fall under, such as technology, sports equipment, footwear, etc.  Then we brainstorm other categories that we might consider for product design possibilities.  Then in groups the students come up with a new product they want to design.  The product can be something that does not already exist or products that do exist combined in a new way.  I also allow them to design products that can not actually exist on earth at this point in time. 

The students create 3-dimensional prototypes or models of their products using any available materials that I have in the classroom.  They design the packaging for the product and develop a marketing strategy.  Each group is responsible for coming up with a company name and designing a company logo. 

Finally, the students present their products to the class by developing and acting out commercials.  They dress-up and bring in music and props.  They have a lot of fun with this and it really influences the way they think about the products they buy and how those products impact the environment. 


Alyssa Zelkowitz


This is a really interesting idea for a project to stretch kids' imaginations and think about the impact their actions have on the planet. Do you limit the materials they can use in any way, or is it just whatever is available in the classroom? It would be interesting to see how students operated under the additional constraint of using only renewable or recycled/recyclable resources to create new products... that could open up an interesting conversation about what materials will actually be around to work with in the coming years, and how they might affect product design (size, shape, color, material composition, etc.)

I really enjoy reading all of the cool ways you stretch your students across academic and art disciplines... I am in the process of a lesson cycle using watercolor to address symbolism and themes in our class novel, and as I got out the paints (and crossed my fingers against spills and accidents!) I thought of you!

Take care,

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