Design Lessons Using Simple Parts – Introduction


I have been experimenting this year with teaching concepts like empathy, reiteration, creative thinking, communication and collaboration, through a series of activities that use simple parts (or what my kindergarten colleagues often call “loose parts”). These activities lead nicely into an exploration of technical drawings and 3D design. They are written as if they will be used in a formal class setting, but they could be adapted to use semi-informally in a makerspace setting. Below is a set of links to the activities (each one may take one or two class periods) and then below that are lists of various requirements, including resources (PDFs and Google Docs).


Part I – Reiteration, Creativity, & Defining the Problem

Part II – Empathy & Communication

Part III – Communication through Drawings

Material Requirements

Large quantities of 3 or 4 reusable simple materials, organized either in central containers or spread out as sets for each group. Here are some examples of possible materials (note – they should be materials that can either be joined together or help other things be joined together):

  • popsicle sticks (large or small)
  • clothespins
  • binder clips
  • elastic bands
  • pipe cleaners
  • straws

Space Requirements

  • workbenches or tables
  • ability to separate students (eg. desktop dividers)

Technical Requirements

  • whiteboard
  • camera/iPad

Documentation Requirements

  • reflection Google Docs on Google Classroom after each class
    • Reflection on Part 1
    • Reflection on Part 2
  • graph paper
  • scrap paper
  • group challenge/documentation sheets/folder
    • Tabloid Size (11″ x 17″)