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Monday Morning Ready03.16.2016
Jumpstart Your Week!

Umbrellas shield people from the rain, but the current design is far from perfect. They fold down into soaked, dripping messes. They crumple when hit by powerful blasts of wind. And they fail to safeguard us from muddy puddle splashes.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

Do you think an umbrella is the best way to stay dry when it rains? If so, why? If not, what do you prefer to use?

Grade 5-6

What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of using an umbrella?

Grade 7-8

What does the phrase "holy grail of amateur inventors" mean? Why do you think that term has been applied to umbrellas?

Grade 9-10

In the article, designer Charles Lim said that umbrellas are perfect because of their price and size. He called umbrella users "a satisfied and dry market." Do you agree with his opinions or do you think consumers would jump at the opportunity to use something different, even if it cost more to purchase?

LESSON PLAN
Design a Better Umbrella

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. 

SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
Why Design Now?
Watch this video to see how designers have used an umbrella design to create the SunShade, an outdoor solar floor lamp.

Blast from the Past
Throughout history people have designed objects that have changed and enhanced the quality of people’s lives. These objects help us to both survive and enjoy life. In this activity, students will analyze historic artifacts to help gain an understanding of how the past has impacted their lives.

How does design solve everyday problems?
In this webinar, curator Ellen Lupton and educator Caroline Payson look at the ideas behind cutting-edge household items, from a glow-in-the dark electrical cord to a camera for the blind. Discover how designers came up with these wild ideas and how you and your class might follow their lead.

Play on Words Design
In this activity, students will design an image that is a “play on words,” using both traditional artistic methods and computer design to perfect the image.

60-30-10
In this activity, students will use ratios and proportions to represent quantitative relationships as they investigate the concept of how percentages are used by designers. Students will decorate the same room using three different percentages of colors.

This Umbrella Creates an Air “Force Field” to Keep Rain Away
Read this Smithsonian article to learn how a group of Chinese entrepreneurs hopes to do away with fabric and repel rain with powerful streams of air.
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