Simple Parts – Part II – Empathy and Communication

This activity is done in partners. You may choose to have students choose their own partners, or students may be required to find partners within the groups they had for Part I. The main setup for these activities is that partners must not be able to see each others’ work, and it is helpful (though not absolutely necessary) if they can see each others’ face. The best way to do this is with those plastic 3-panel writing folders, but you can also setup cardboard or other dividers propped up temporarily.

The materials used here are the same as in Part I, so you should keep the same routines and expectations for materials, classroom procedures for getting them, and also clean-up expectations.

One Minute Warm-Up

With a partner, each person has 1 minute to make an animal using the materials.

When time is up, partners show each other their shape. They have to try and guess what animal their partner created.

Two Minute Team-Work

Teaming up with another set of partners, students have 2 minutes to choose one of the animals they made and work together to make a place for that animal to live.



Partners take no more than 1 minute to make a shape/object using between 5 and 8 pieces. One partner (Person A) gives the other (Person B) as much information as possible. Even though partners are blocked from viewing each other, Person B copies the shape as best they can. When complete, partners compare the original with the copy, reflect on how they did and what they could do better, and then switch roles.

Students should be spread out around the class, and have a way to block the view of their partner – eg. 3 panel writing folders, pieces of cardboard, etc. Remember that if you are using blindfolds for Version 3, it’s probably best if you set them aside after the activity and have them washed before the next class.

Version 1

Partner A describes their shape to Partner B orally, but B cannot see the shape.

Version 2

Partner A describes their shape to Partner B, but B cannot talk to A (including for clarification/confirmation)

Version 3

Partner A describes their shape to Partner B, but B is blindfolded

Version 4

Partner B asks Partner A questions to figure out what the shape is, Partner A can’t say anything else other than “yes” or “no” in response.

Version 5

Partner A describes their shape to Partner B, but B can only use one hand.


Discovering or finding the right framing of a problem requires designers to see things from different perspectives. Developing empathy allows you do a better job of understanding the context of the problem and helps you create a better solution.


Part I – Reiteration, Creativity, & Defining the Problem

Part II – Empathy & Communication

Part III – Communication through Drawings