phrases used to describe the design process vary from one curriculum to another, the basic approaches are analogous. For example, on the elementary level in “A World in Motion,” the design process is organized around themes, such as setting goals, building knowledge, designing, building, testing, and presenting. Similarly, in a project in the “Children Designing and Engineering” curriculum, student design teams are instructed to “know the problem, explore ideas, plan and develop, test, and present.”

The patterns are similar in curricula on the middle school and high school levels. For example, in “The Infinity Project,” the design process includes the following steps:

  • Identify the problem or objective.

  • Define goals and identify the constraints.

  • Research and gather information.

  • Create potential design solutions.

  • Analyze the viability of solutions.

  • Choose the most appropriate solution.

  • Build and implement the design.

  • Test and evaluate the design.

  • Repeat all steps as necessary.


We defined “analysis” as a systematic, detailed examination intended to (1) define or clarify problems, (2) inform design decisions, (3) predict or assess performance, (4) determine economic feasibility, (5) evaluate alternatives, or (6) investigate failures. Our analysis revealed isolated instances of the first three applications of analysis and even fewer instances of the next three. Overall, analysis was rarely an explicit, recurring theme in a design process. Thus in our model, analysis is characterized as a fragment of thread attached to the design thread.

In most of the curricula, the first step in a design activity is to pose a problem or define a task. For example, the first three challenges in “A World in Motion” are framed in the context of designing toy vehicles for a fictitious company. In all three, the challenge to elementary and middle school students is to analyze the contents of a letter or request for proposals to identify the problem and specifications of a successful solution. Similar problem scenarios appear in the Building Structure with Young Children unit in the “Young Scientists Series,” “Building Math,” “Children Designing and Engi-

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