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Monday Morning Ready08.23.2019
Jumpstart Your Week!

Certain household items are constant reminders that nothing lasts forever. Examples include dulled razor blades, ink cartridges that end up costing way more than the printer itself and, of course, pens. But, that notion may have to be revised a bit thanks to Italian design firm Pininfarina. ... < read more >
Grade 3-4

Think about all the supplies you bought for the new school year. Which supply do you think will need to be replaced first? Why?

Grade 5-6

What would be the advantages of having a pen that never ran out of ink? Can you think of any disadvantages? If so, what are they?

Grade 7-8

Do you think students would be a likely market for a pen that never ran out of ink? If so, why? If not, who do you think would be the best target audience for pens like these? Why?

Grade 9-10

According to the article, the firm that designed the new inkless pen has also designed cars for companies like Ferrari. What do you think the pen would look like if its designers had experience working for a computer company or a fast food chain instead?

Design a School Supply of the Future


  1. As a class, create a list of supplies students need throughout the school year. Discuss how the supplies are used and why they are necessary for students to complete their work.
  2. Have students brainstorm a list of things they wish they had-if only the items existed!
  3. Instruct students to select their MVP "school supply of the future" and imagine what it would look like and how it would work. Give students time to sketch a model of their ideas. Then have students create an advertisement that would encourage other students to buy this new, can't-live-without school supply of the future.


Invite students to share their designs and advertisements with the class. Challenge them to explain why their new item should be at the top of every student's back-to-school list.


Grades 3-4:
As a class, identify one "school supply of the future" that students need. Brainstorm ideas about what the item would look like and how it would work. Divide the class into small groups. Have each group sketch a design and create a simple advertisement for their new product.
Grades 5-6:
Have students complete the activity in small groups. Challenge each group to envision one school supply of the future. Then have each group member draw what he or she thinks it should look like. Encourage group members to share their ideas, identify the best features in each, and then sketch a new design that incorporates all of those ideas. Have group members work together to create an advertisement for their new product.
Grades 7-8:
Have students complete the activity in pairs. Encourage partners to brainstorm ideas, select a product and make a list of desirable features it should include. Have them work together to sketch a detailed design of their school supply of the future and then create an advertisement for their new product.
Grades 9-10:
Have students complete the activity in pairs. Encourage partners to brainstorm ideas, select a product and make a list of desirable features it should include. Challenge partners to create a patent-worthy diagram of their new product. Then have them write a script and film a 30-second television commercial touting their new product.
Back to School at the Portrait Gallery
Backpacks. Lunchboxes. School supplies. Classroom setup. Back to school is an exciting time of year, especially at the National Portrait Gallery. Visit this site to learn how you can register for a teacher workshop or sign your students up for programs. Can’t make it to the Portrait Gallery? No problem. You can also access the classroom resources page to find teacher guides and learn about the collections.

Welcome to Our Classroom
Use this Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum lesson to guide students as they develop their writing skills while creating a “new student brochure” full of important information for new classmates and their families.

Le School Sac
Most students use a backpack to bring their belongings to school and back home, and many have a hard time finding things in their backpacks. In this Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum lesson, students will examine their bags to see how the organizational features of the bag address their particular needs. Then students will design a carrier that will better fit their use and needs.

Top Reasons to Attend My School
In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, high school students will examine and evaluate reasons why someone might choose to go their particular school. They will also pitch a marketing campaign to attract prospective students in the coming years.

17 Inventions That Could Make Going Back to School a Little Bit Easier
From an aromatic alarm clock to a school bus locator system, read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn about some patented products that could help students and parents with the back-to-school transition.

Slates, crayons, and quills: Back to School Supplies of the Past
The kids are back to school and parents have done their best to fill seemingly endless lists of new school supplies. But what did children bring with them back to school in the past? Read this article from the National Museum of American History to find out.