Future City Lab: Design Your Own Gallery


Grade Level: All
Keywords: curator, gallery, challenges, attributes, solutions, agency
Source: flickr.com/AstridWestvang


Students will:

  • think critically about the challenges facing their community
  • identify their community’s positive attributes
  • contemplate ways to communicate these facts to a diverse population in a museum context


  • Handouts (provided)
  • Presentation (provided)
  • Paper


  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas, and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Guiding Question:

  1. How can we share new information or a point of view with others, in a way that accommodates a wide variety of prior knowledge and skills?

    Procedures - Session One (1 hour)

    This lesson is inspired by the Museum’s Future City Lab, in which visitors are encouraged to think about New York City as a community with five distinct challenges that represent where fruitful improvements could be made. This lesson encourages students to think carefully about their own community and how to address challenges while preserving aspects of their community that they love. In the second session, students are encouraged to be creative with how they display and communicate those challenges and solutions to others. Note that this lesson can be scaled up and down according to grade level and ability. (For example: instead of small group discussion, you may wish to talk about community challenges as a class, with pre-selected challenges for younger students.)

    For more on the Future City Lab, see http://www.mcny.org/exhibitions/core/future-city.

    Download the Session One Activity

    Download the Session One Challenges/Attribute Worksheet

  1. Step 1: Introduction (5 minutes)
  2. Tell students that they will be working on creating an exhibit about their community. The first session will be focused on identifying community challenges and attributes, and the second session gives students the opportunity to design their own gallery to communicate those qualities to an “audience” of museum-goers who want to learn more about where the students live and how it might grow or change in the future.

  3. Step 2: Small Group Work (30 minutes)
  4. Review vocabulary in advance so you can make sure that students are familiar with key terms and concepts (“attributes,” “industry,” “economy,” etc.) on the worksheets. Have students work in small groups to think about challenges facing their communities and write their responses on the gridded worksheet provided. This should be a time for free discussion and reflection, and teachers can use it as a chance to introduce the whole class to common concepts as students think through the prompts. Then ask them to think through and record the positive aspects of their communities – the things that make their community a fun, special, or pleasant place to live – that they wouldn’t want to lose as it grows and changes.

  5. Step 3: Independent Work (25 minutes)
  6. Once students have worked in small groups to identify challenges and attributes, ask students to work on their own to brainstorm possible solutions to the challenges their small group has identified. (Note: If desired, this lesson can be paused here indefinitely to incorporate other unit-relevant content on infrastructure, social studies, civics, environmental planning, etc. so students are more knowledgeable about the underlying topics before proposing solutions.) Make sure they don’t lose their worksheets with their challenges, proposed solutions, and community attributes – these will be the basis of the galleries they design in Session Two.

    Procedures - Session Two (1 hour)

  1. Step 1: Introduction (10 minutes)
  2. Use the provided presentation to review some of the considerations that go into a gallery design. Encourage students to think through successful and unsuccessful museum visits of their own. Pay particular attention to how different learning styles (e.g. oral vs. visual) should be accommodated. Review the comments from the Director of the Museum’s Future City Lab and ask students what the galleries are designed to accomplish.

  3. Step 2: Design (30 minutes)
  4. Have students use the provided template as the basic outline of a gallery space. Encourage them to divide the gallery however they see fit and label where each element of the gallery will be located, how that element will be organized, and what materials and media will be used. Then ask them to sketch one of their gallery sections on a separate piece of paper, showing how it would look to a visitor. (Note: This section can be extended as homework if students would like more time to work on their design.)

  5. Step 3: Sharing Out (20 minutes)
  6. Have students share their designs with the others. Encourage open discussion about how students chose to organize their galleries and applaud creativity. In the last five minutes of class time, have students view the two-minute linked video that explores the Museum of the City of New York’s Future City Lab. Are there any ideas that are similar to what students have come up with? Anything that is different? Ask: How has our thinking about museum galleries changed?


Fieldtrips: This content is inspired by the Future City Lab gallery in the Museum’s flagship exhibition, New York at Its Core. If possible, consider bringing your students on a fieldtrip to see the gallery in action! Visit http://mcny.org/education/field-trips to find out more.


This series of lesson plans for New York at Its Core was developed in conjunction with a focus group of New York City public school teachers: Joy Canning, Max Chomet, Vassili Frantzis, Jessica Lam, Patty Ng, and Patricia Schultz.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these lessons do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.