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Design a Better Umbrella

Students will conduct research to learn about unique umbrella designs from the past. Then they will brainstorm ideas for a new umbrella and create a detailed sketch of their design. They will explain how their idea overcomes issues that stump most umbrella designers-function, price and size.

PROCESS:

  1. Tell students that some people use umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun. But the main purpose of an umbrella is to keep people dry when it rains. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. Compose a list of reasons why an umbrella can fail to do its job.
  2. Point out that the article identified three issues designers must contend with as they try to create a better umbrella: function, price and size. Discuss why each of these issues is difficult to overcome.
  3. Have students conduct research on the history of umbrellas. Tell them to identify and describe unique designs from the past. 
  4. Have students brainstorm ideas for a new umbrella of their own. Instruct them to create a detailed sketch of their design. Challenge them to explain how their design tackles the issues of function, price and size.

ASSESSMENT: 

Invite students to share their designs with the class. Encourage classmates to discuss how well each design tackles the issues of function, price and size.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:     

Grades 3-4:
Investigate the history of umbrellas as a class. Encourage students to identify and describe any unique umbrella designs they discover. Then have students brainstorm ideas for a better umbrella. Create a list of requirements for a new design. Encourage each student to sketch a design based on those requirements. As a class, discuss how students' designs tackle the problems of function, price and size. 

Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into small groups. Encourage groups to identify unique umbrella designs from the past. Invite them to share what they learned with the class. Then have groups brainstorm ideas for a better umbrella. Instruct them to create a list of requirements for a new umbrella and sketch a design that illustrates their ideas. Invite groups to present their ideas to the class. Challenge them to explain how their design tackles the problems of function, price and size. 

Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Encourage partners to identify unique umbrella designs from the past. Invite them to share what they learned in small groups. Then have pairs brainstorm ideas for a better umbrella. Instruct them to create a list of requirements for a new umbrella and sketch a design that illustrates their ideas. Invite partners to present their ideas to the class. Challenge them to explain how their design tackles the problems of function, price and size. 

Grades 9-10:
Instruct students to conduct research to identify unique umbrella designs from the past. Have them discuss notable successes and failures with a partner. Then have partners write a list of requirements for a better umbrella. Instruct each student to sketch a design based on those requirements. Have partners compare their sketches and evaluate how well each design tackles the problems of function, price and size.