Noticing Form and Function in Our Lives

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Students will explore how the form and function of common objects and structures are related.

Summary

  • Students will describe the form and function of a variety of structures and objects
  • Students will think critically about how the form of an object is determined by its function
  • Students will reflect on the factors that are considered in designing structures and objects
  • Students will consider how they could change an object’s form to better suit its function
Specific Expectations for Ontario

Grade 7 Science, Understanding Structures and Mechanisms, Form and Function

1.1 evaluate the importance for individuals, society, the economy, and the environment of factors that should be considered in designing and building structures and devices to meet specific needs

3.7 identify the factors that determine the suitability of materials for use in manufacturing a product 

Setting the Stage

We create and are surrounded by objects that serve specific functions. Students may be so used to these common objects that they don’t stop to consider how they came to be. Stopping to notice the forms and functions of common objects will help students to recognize how design properties such as size, shape, and choice of material affect function. Exploring these concepts through objects that are familiar to students makes them relatable. Gaining a deeper understanding of form and function may help students consider how they could innovate by either improving an object’s form or creating something with a new function. 

In this lesson, students identify the function and describe the form of objects. Students then consider how an object’s form follows its function. Finally, students reflect on the relationship between form and function. 

This is lesson 1 of 3 in a set that can be used sequentially or as standalone lessons. The suggested sequence for completing these lessons is:

  1. Noticing Form and Function in Our Lives
  2. Innovating with Form and Function
  3. Careers with Form and Function 

Materials & Preparation

  • Noticing Form and Function Reproducible (1 per student) [Google doc] [PDF] - provide as a paper or e-copy

What To Do

Part 1: Introducing Form and Function

  • Note: If students already have a strong understanding of the concepts of form and function, Part 1 can be skipped. 
  • Teachers could start the lesson by telling students that every structure and object in our homes and schools was designed and created with a function in mind. The function is the purpose a structure/object serves or what it helps people do. Teachers might give some examples of what functions common objects serve (e.g., a chair’s function is to help us sit comfortably at the right height to work or eat or a pencil’s function is to allow us to write on materials such as paper). 
Girl writing at a table
Girl sitting in chair at table writing (Source: Mindful Media via iStockphoto).
  • Teachers could give students examples of a couple common objects and ask what function they serve. Teachers could use any structures or objects that are visible to students as examples such as windows, sneakers, paperclips, or desks. Teachers could record the objects and their function on the board. 
Empty classroom
Objects found in a classroom (Source: manonallard via iStockphoto).
  • Once students have identified the functions of a couple objects, teachers could introduce the idea of form. Teachers could tell students that form is the characteristics of an object, including its shape, size, and the material it’s made of. Teachers could describe the form of one of the objects students listed. Then, students could take turns describing the form of the remaining objects as the teacher records. 
Interior designer choosing wood from samples
Interior designer choosing wood samples (Source: demaerre via iStockphoto)

 Part 2: Noticing Form and Function

  • Now that students have an understanding of the definition of function and form, they will think about how these two concepts connect. Teachers could tell students that they will now think about how an objects’ form follows its function (i.e., form is determined by function).
  • Teachers could introduce the Noticing Form and Function reproducible to students. Teachers could tell students that they will first describe the form and function of objects or structures, just as they did as a class in Part 1. Then, students will consider how an object’s form helps it serve its function. 
    • Teachers could help students understand this task by modeling the example object (a coffee mug) in the first row of the Noticing Form and Function reproducible. Teachers could show students how the function and form of a coffee cup are described. Then, teachers could show students how the connection between the form and function of a coffee mug is explained. 
Form and function reproducible sample
Sample from Noticing Form and Function reproducible
  • Students could walk around their classroom, school or home either individually or in groups and choose several objects to consider. Students could record their observations and thoughts about each object in Noticing Form and Function reproducible. 

Part 3: Reflection

  • Teachers could lead a discussion using the following guiding questions.
    • What are some ways that an object’s function determines its form? How can an object’s form help it serve a specific function?
      • Students might share some of their examples and observations in response to this question. 
    • How might changing an object’s form affect its function? For example, what if I used a coffee mug made of paper instead of ceramic material. How would that affect its function? 
      • Encourage students to think about specific changes of form that might affect some of the objects they observed. For example, what would happen if we made our chairs ten meters tall. 
    • How could you change one of your objects’ form to make it better serve its function? What could you improve?
    • What are some of the factors that people might consider when they decide how to construct an object or structure? 
      • Possible answers: ability to serve a specific function, audience (who is using that object), environmental impact, health and safety, aesthetics, etc.
    • What was something that you realized or noticed during this activity? 
    • What is something that you are still wondering about form and/or function? 

Details

Assessment

  • Teachers could assess students’ understanding of and ability to describe form and function by reading their responses to the Noticing Form and Function reproducible. 
  • Teachers could assess student engagement based on their participation in whole group discussion.

Assessment

  • Teachers could assess students’ understanding of and ability to describe form and function by reading their responses to the Noticing Form and Function reproducible. 
  • Teachers could assess student engagement based on their participation in whole group discussion.

Extensions

Teachers can help students expand their knowledge of form and function by developing innovative designs

Teachers can use this lesson to introduce students to careers that involve form and function. 

This YouTube video (5:59 min.) explores 5 very different examples of objects and structures and explains how their form follows their function.

Extensions

Teachers can help students expand their knowledge of form and function by developing innovative designs

Teachers can use this lesson to introduce students to careers that involve form and function. 

This YouTube video (5:59 min.) explores 5 very different examples of objects and structures and explains how their form follows their function.

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