Museum of the Mundane - Digital Promise Global

Museum of the Mundane

Objective: Students will deconstruct an object to think critically about what it was made from, how it was made, and why it was made; and to make that thinking visible.

Tools/Materials Required: Small hand tools; HP Sprout (or poster board, markers, scissors, tape)

Depth of Knowledge: Skills and Concepts

Teacher’s notes are in purple. For the student’s version, see Museum of the Mundane Student Guide.


Prepare: Learn about the key ideas in this project

How can we learn more about an object and the choices that went into how it was made and what it was made from? How can we closely examine simple objects in order to understand their underlying complexity? How might this process help us build our own objects in the future?

    • Most objects are made up of many parts. What are all the parts of the object?
    • What are the purposes of each of those parts? How do they contribute to the overall purpose of the object?
    • In what ways is this object complex? How do those complexities support or detract from the ultimate use of the object?

More guidance from the creators of this thinking routine can be found here.

You may want to set-up a Take-It-Apart station in your Learning Studio, providing a space and an assortment of objects for students to take apart and examine. This thinking routine can be a great activity for students who are trying to generate ideas for their own projects but are struggling to get started. There is always something to be learned about constructing through the process of deconstructing.

The best objects for this tend to be simple machines and everyday objects –mechanical pencils or dry erase markers are much more interesting than most people realize. Motors, heaters, or fans have many interesting mechanical parts that students can examine. Computers and electronics tend NOT to make good objects for this –their parts are miniaturized in circuit boards and cannot be easily deconstructed and understood.


Practice: Try as many activities to as you would like to build your skills

Disassemble and reassemble an everyday object. Can you carefully use hand tools (screw drivers, pliers, etc.) to take the object apart? When you put it back together, will it still work?

Learn to use the Size Up app on the HP Sprout to measure something. How could this help you with this project?


Produce: Dig into the project and make it your own!

Create a “museum exhibit” that reveals the hidden complexity of an everyday object. Define, document, and display the object in a way that helps other people understand how even simple things are sophisticated when you look closely enough.

Help students unpack this challenge by revisiting the guiding questions of the practice activity.

  • Examine the parts of an everyday object, the purposes of each of those parts, and the complexities that emerge.
  • Document and display your findings in a format that visitors would be able to understand and appreciate —as if it were a museum exhibit!
  • Try to make a plan for this project before you begin. How will you deconstruct the object to examine it more closely? How will you present your object in the end?It’s okay to deviate from your plan when you discover things that make you pause and change direction, but it’s good to start with a plan.

Students could create their exhibit using poster board and markers (provide tape too, it can be great to attach actual pieces of the item being analyzed to the display), or they could take advantage of 2D and 3D capture functions of the Sprout to create a digital display of their work –perhaps push students to think about how Stop Motion could also be useful for this if there is time.


This project is adapted from Agency by Design Educator Resources – Thinking Routines

Produced by Digital Promise Global, with thanks to the Open Educational Resources listed throughout this guide. Distributed to Learning Studios schools as part of HP, Inc. and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may share this project or modified versions of it under this same license.

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