Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s new campaign initiative to take its Design in the Classroom program nationwide has gained substantial support from television host Ellen DeGeneres. DeGeneres recently matched contributions up to $100,000, and to date, more than $325,000 has been raised toward the museum’s $500,000 goal to launch the national program. The program itself introduces classes K-12 to design thinking and learning through interactive hands-on workshops.
“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,” said Caroline Baumann, director of the museum. “We’re so pleased to have the commitment of Ellen DeGeneres, her brand ED and countless other friends in the design world. Their support will enable us to bring this free program to schools across the country. We’re hopeful that with the public’s help we will reach and inspire even more of tomorrow’s designers.”
“This program encourages students to think like designers as they engage in the design process through active observation, critical discussion, the act of making, visual communication and presentation and critique,” said Caroline Payson, director of education. “It has been a longtime dream to bring the unique experience of Design in the Classroom to every student in America.”
Through Design Challenge kits, children are tasked to use common materials to build a prototype that solves a design problem and learn that design thinking can be used to solve problems faced in daily life. The 45-minute workshop instills creative confidence and encourages students to approach the world in a visual way. The program imparts essential 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking, visual literacy, teamwork and problem solving, and can be used to enhance the teaching of any subject matter, including mathematics, science, environmental studies, language arts, history and visual arts.
In year one, the museum’s educators will conduct four regional trainings, appoint select educators as regional ambassadors and conduct in-person follow-up visits to evaluate the integration of design into the curriculum. The national objective for the program will be accomplished through a “teachers training teachers” model. With every 100 educators trained, the program could reach 7,500 students per year. If each of these educators went on to train 10 of their peers, that’s 1,000 educators per year and 75,000 students.
The museum is now inviting the public to support the campaign through the crowdfunding platform Razoo.