In 2011, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum created a program in six pilot cities – New York City, San Antonio, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Minneapolis, and Cleveland – to introduce design to students from kindergarten to 12th grade. The program provides hands-on workshops to schools at no cost, and has already reached 80,000 students. The museum aims to raise $500,000 to expand the initiative nationwide; $325,000 has already been contributed from public figures such as Ellen DeGeneres. Now, the museum is inviting the public to support the program through a crowdfunding campaign.
Design in the Classroom consists of 45-minute workshops that encourage students to solve a problem using the Design Challenge Kit, which includes simple materials such as rubber bands, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, straws, and tape. The kits are meant to show how designers are forced to more creative with limitations. As part of the program, museum educators train school teachers in how to easily integrate design learning into their existing curriculum. The program utilizes critical thinking, visual literacy, teamwork, and problem solving.
If the museum reaches its fundraising goal, it hopes to host four regional trainings and appoint ambassadors. To reach more students, the program will expand to include a "teachers training teachers" model. After initially instructing 100 teachers, who can reach 7,500 students per year, each teacher will then extend their knowledge to fellow educators. The museum estimates that this model could result in teachers using the program with a total of 75,000 students in a year.
"As the nation's design museum, it is our mission to ensure every student is introduced to the power of design and understands how it can be used to solve everyday problems," museum director Caroline Baumann said in a news release. "We're hopeful that with the public's help we can reach and inspire even more of tomorrow's designers."