Teaching Ideas

Early Learning

For Ages 3-5


  • What does "design" mean? A design is a sketch or a plan. To design something is to make a plan or sketch. What things around you do you think were designed?
  • Let’s think about the clothes we are wearing. Where did you get your clothes?
  • How do you think your clothes were made?
  • How did the person who sewed your clothes know how to make them?
  • Show the children an example of a sewing pattern, design sketch, and a blueprint. These are all instructions for how to make something.
  • Someone had to come up with the idea for your clothes, and then figure out how to make them. With a pattern, other people can make the same clothes too.
  • When designers create something, they have to think about several things:
    Who will use the item?
    What does it need to have so that it will work?
    What should it look like?
  • Talk about concrete examples that show different ways a chair could be made and use the balance as an object lesson—one side of the balance labeled “Function” and one labeled “Creativity.” For the following examples, have the children decide where each chair would be on the balance.
    A chair that is made out of colored glass and is very beautiful, but if you sit on it the wrong way, it might break.
    A plain chair made from wood without any color or special carving.
    A chair made out of colorful plastic that is very strong but light and easy to move around and has interesting curves to look at.
  • Read Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Steven Guarnaccia (Harry N. Abrams, 2000) and have the children pay attention to how the bears in this version are a little bit different.
  • Afterwards, talk briefly about what the children noticed about the bears and their home.

Art Discussion

  • Look closely at the Easy Edges chair and have volunteers share their discoveries.
  • What did you find? What did you notice?
  • What do you think this chair is made out of? Cardboard!
  • We usually think of cardboard as a hard material and something that we throw away or recycle, but Frank Gehry wanted to take on the challenge of using an unusual material to create a chair. Show an image of Gehry.
  • Gehry made these chairs by layering corrugated cardboard together and adding hardboard (a type of fiberboard) to the edges.
  • This type of construction makes the chairs very strong! An experiment was even done to show that the cardboard chairs could hold up a car.
  • What do you notice about the lines of the chair? Have the children trace the lines in the air with their fingers. Even though this chair is made out of stiff cardboard, the lines are very curvy.
  • Compare to the Campana brothers' Banquet Chair with Pandas (2009.9).

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • Easy Edges was a series of linear furniture created in the 1960s by American artist Frank Gehry. Why do you think he called this furniture easy edges?
  • Gehry created well-designed functional objects made out of affordable, everyday materials that were supposed to appeal to the general public. His interest in ordinary materials partly came out of spending time at his grandfather’s store while he was growing up. He was also concerned with using materials that were “green” or good for the environment. What do you think this chair was made out of? (cardboard)
  • Why do you think Gehry chose to use cardboard? This chair contains 60 layers of cardboard. Cardboard is a light material, but it is surprisingly strong. Three chairs could hold up 1 car!
  • Gehry thought that layers of cardboard look and feel like corduroy. After repeated use, cardboard becomes soft and suede-like. Look closely at the chair. Do you see anything that lets you know that people have sat in it before?