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Tennis and Other Games

This page builds on the foundation of ideas in other parts of the website:

Learning and/or Performing and/or Enjoying` can be in tension (as indicated by "or") so in school we should motivate students to supplement their short-term enjoyment (including satisfaction due to success) with a pursuit of long-term satisfactions that come from learning for life.

Learning for Life with a problem-solving approach to Personal Education merges into Educational Teamwork + Motivational Persuasion and then The Self-Perception System of Students.

Goals for Instruction using Design Process include the challenge of maintaining flow-and-fun while integrating metacognitive reflection into minds-on activities, on a computer and in other ways.


All educators agree that we should promote a variety of student motivations, both short term and long term.  But there will be debates about how much emphasis to place on different motivators, and the best style(s) to use for our motivational persuasions.


In this page:

Tennis and Other Games

Motivations (Short Term + Long Term)

Ecologies (Cognitive-Affective-Cultural)




Our family moved from Iowa to California the summer before my 9th grade, and in spring semester I changed from baseball (my spring/summer game in Iowa) to tennis.  Our coach didn't provide much guidance, and I developed an unorthodox backhand with a “thumb behind the handle” grip.

After entering high school in 10th grade, a better coach (William Baca) wanted me to change this backhand grip and I resisted, partly due to being young-and-foolish, thinking “it's MY backhand and I want to keep it.”  But mainly I was reluctant for a rational reason.  With the old grip, many factors (muscle timings, wrist angle, uses of elbow & shoulder,...) had been well optimized with respect to each other, producing skilled performing with accuracy, consistency, and power;  a change of grip would disrupt the relationships in this physical procedural ecology, causing a decrease of performance,* and my short-sighted competitive focus didn't want this because I wanted to always win.

But the coach persuaded me, and within a week the factors had re-adjusted and my backhand was as good as it had been.  And its quality wasn't limited by faulty biomechanics, so in the future I could develop a much better backhand (with resulting long-term satisfactions for me and our team) than would have been possible with the old grip.   {more about the change - how I was persuaded - and how this helped us win a championship}  {my change can be viewed as moving from a local maximum to a more-global maximum with a higher potential peak}

* After the grip change there was a de-optimization (of muscle timings,...) in the physical procedural ecology of my backhand, so my short-term performing-and-enjoying decreased.  But I was learning, and soon there was a delayed re-optimization to form a new (and better) procedural ecology that allowed long-term satisfactions.


a summary:  This personal history illustrates the value of motivational persuasion and of enduring a decrease in Short-Term Enjoying to gain an increase in Long-Term Satisfaction (due to Learning for the Long Term), with a tradeoff between Performing/Enjoying and Learning .  My coach decided “the tradeoff will be beneficial, Craig just doesn't know it yet” so he forced me to tolerate a temporary decrease in my present short-term performance so — by learning — I could increase my future long-term performance as a tennis player, and thus to improve his tennis team.



Here are analogous (but not identical) application-situations:

• my tennis backhand, which is similar to

• many other situations in sports, and is also similar in some ways (but not others) to

• computer games, with a temporary shift from “going with the game-flow” when requests for metacognitive reflection (with or without Design Process) are integrated into the game-action, or occur before the game or after it,

• decisions about what-and-how to teach, with 5 rational reasons for teachers to minimize "thinking skills" instruction,

• many other situations in life.


These analogies will be explored below in sections about:  student motivations (short-term and long-term) during all activities, including computer games;   ecologies (physical, cognitive, affective, cultural) involving multiple interactive factors, with applications for ideas-and-skills that occur during a wide range of activities by students and teachers.



Student Motivations — Short Term and Long Term

This page began by explaining that it "builds on the foundation of ideas in other parts of the website" about Learning and/or Performing and/or Enjoying` plus Learning for Life and Motivational Persuasion (and The Self-System of Students) and "the challenge of maintaining flow-and-fun while integrating metacognitive reflection into minds-on activities" when we Design Instruction.

As explained throughout this website — especially in a 4-page series about Building Bridges, Motivating Students, Increasing Transfer, and Designing Inquiry Activities — the wide scope of design-thinking (we use it for almost everything we do) could be an especially appealing way to motivate a wider range of students so they want to pursue long-term satisfactions.

This section is a commentary on these ideas, extending them in a few ways that you may find interesting and useful.


You can see "the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat" in a half-minute video (with a famous ski jump) and read the story.


Now – Performing and Enjoying:  Realistic practical concerns (regarding decreased quality of performance, as with my tennis backhand) usually are a key factor in determining the perceived fruitfulness of a new idea or a new strategy for doing a skill, in any context.  In school, students feel pressure to perform well on their next exam.  If they change deeply ingrained habits of learning (for studying, thinking, performing), usually they won't have much time to re-optimize before the next exam.  Even if students think a new Strategy for Learning-and-Performing will be better than what they are now doing, sometimes a change will require enduring lower performance during a period of re-optimizing,* and this is a reason to avoid change.

Now – Exciting Competition:  Or a decrease of enjoying can occur during a game, when the excitement of short-term satisfactions due to competition (with others or just with self-standards) is interrupted by a request for metacognitive reflection.  Therefore, maintaining flow-and-fun (by minimizing interruptions during an activity, and in other ways) is an important goal to guide our designing of instruction.

Now – Using Time for Fun:  Or maybe students just don't want to invest time in activities (including some that would lead to long-term learning) if there is not enough immediate reward in short-term enjoyment.

Now – and also Later:  If a student doesn't want to do an activity that would be educationally productive, for any of these reasons or others, a decrease of intrinsic enjoyment can be counter-balanced by expectations for increased enjoyment later, due to increased performance later, with a forward-looking attitude of delayed gratification.  In some situations, motivational persuasion is necessary and is useful to "help students shift their balance from only Short-Term Fun toward also Long-Term Satisfactions."

* One way to imagine how "increased performance later" can occur (as in my new-and-better backhand) is analogous to understanding a creative process of revision in which you make changes that can be minor or major:  imagine a process of optimizing locally (by climbing upward on a particular hill) and reoptimizing (by "shifting to another hill" and then climbing upward on it) in an effort to seek local maxima (and perhaps the global maximum) that occur on various hills.  You can learn more about this visual analogy, which can be useful for understanding change in a wide variety of contexts (in tennis and motivation and teaching and in other areas of life) - briefly & more and in detail.


A Range of Views among Educators

When I began writing this page, I wondered whether appeals to pursuing long-term satisfactions are in the mainstream of current thinking about designing instruction for inquiry activities.  Now I'm sure the answer is YES because the main goal of most educators is the long-term “life success” of students.  But there will be some disagreements about some details.  I think that, compared with the average of other educators:

• regarding how much to emphasize various motivators, I more strongly recommend instruction that will persuade students to also "pursue long-term satisfactions."

• when we compare the variety of styles for motivational persuasion, my preference is to persuade more explicitly, at least occasionally, to show students that design-thinking in school can help them improve their design-thinking in life and achieve their personal goals in life.   Bridges - Motivation - Transfer - Activities

• how can we most effectively help students improve their design-thinking skills?  I strongly prefer teaching principles-for-process more explicitly, by using a model rather than a semi-model or no model.

But I'm not certain about the ways in which these perceptions of differences are accurate,* so I'll appreciate any feedback that will help me understand this better.   {email to craigru178-att-yahoo-daut-caum}  {*And, of course, whether my preferences are more educationally useful.}


Delayed Gratification in Young Children:  A "marshmallow experiment" describes the long-term success (academically and more generally) of young children who were more skilled with delayed gratification.  But there are reasons to wonder about the relevance for education with older students, when we ask:  Can delayed gratification be learned, and (if yes) by what methods of instruction? by direct teaching strategies like Motivational Persuasion? or with indirect methods?   Also, as discussed in the final paragraph of wikipedia, what other factors might be involved (variations in trust? in strategic thinking?) during the experiment & afterward, and what are the cause-effect relationships between these factors and immediate results during the experiment, and longer-term results?   /   For students, a healthy self-system (accurate and optimistic) will help promote attitudes-and-actions of delayed gratification, and pursuits of long-term satisfactions.

I.O.U. — Later, other ideas-about-motivation (including effects of cognitive dissonance) will be added to this section.


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Ecologies in Education

Biological Ecology:  In biology, ecology is the system of interactive relationships that organisms develop and maintain with each other and with their environment.  By analogy, we can think about the “ecology” in other systems of interactive relationships.  We'll begin with 2 analogous examples (••), and then 3 more (•• •).    {a humble disclaimer:  These “ecologies” are not new.  I've merely attached ecology-names to systems of interactive relationships that other educators already have studied and, more important, have developed, as in STEM Learning Ecosystems.}


Physical Procedural Ecology:  Earlier` I describe a physical skill (my tennis backhand) in which many physical factors were "well optimized with respect to each other" so the resulting system was an effective physical procedural ecology.    { But most "physical skills" are actually mental-and-physical. }

Instructional Ecology:  In analogous ways, a teacher develops methods of instruction (re: WHAT to teach, and HOW) in which many instructional factors are "well optimized with respect to each other" so the resulting system is an effective instructional ecology.


delayed re-optimization:  Every change of ecology (whether it's those above or below, or others) is followed by a time period in which the ecology de-optimizes and re-optimizes, whether this involves a biological ecosystem or a backhand or instruction or education.  But each optimization takes you to a local maximum that may not be your global maximum.


A Physical Procedural Ecology, as with my backhand, is analogous in some ways (but not others, with many similarities but also important differences) to these mental ecologies:

• the Mental Procedural Ecology of a performer/learner;  the most common application of a mental procedural skill is using a process of design thinking, because it's used for almost everything we do.     { iou - Later, I'll link to relevant parts of the website for "more" about this. }

• the Mental Conceptual Ecology of a learner, used to understand concepts.  {more about Conceptual Ecology}


Ecologies for Teacher & Students:  A teacher wants to optimize these ecologies (physical procedural, mental procedural, mental conceptual) for themself, to improve their performance and learning so they will be more effective in helping students improve their ecologies for mental skills (procedural & conceptual) and mental/physical skills (as in oral communication, and most sports) or mainly-physical skills.  To do this, teachers develop an instructional ecology that includes strategies for teaching based on decisions (by the teacher, and often by others) about what to teach and how, about curriculum & instruction.  A teacher's Instructional Ecology is part of an...

Educational Ecology:  A broader system of education, extending beyond a classroom* (in a department, or school, district, state, nation), develops a combination of educational factors interacting to form an educational ecology that can be productive (to make the system more effective in various ways) or unproductive (making it less effective).   /   A teacher controls much of their own instructional ecology, but usually not all of it, because some parts will be affected by the "broader system of education."    {After Educational Ecology below, there is more about Instructional Ecology.}


Using Design Process to improve Educational Ecology

The wide scope of design thinking (it's used by students for almost everything they do) lets us build useful educational bridges that will help students increase their confidence about learning and their motivations to learn (with proactive personal education that includes metacognitive thinking strategies & more) and transfers of learning.  These beneficial results for students (increasing their confidence, motivation, and expectations for useful transfers of school-learning into life) can help us improve an educational ecology.


Educational Ecology, Part 1 — Personal Factors

For each ecology above` — whether it's viewed from the perspective of a learner/performer (in the role of a student/player) or teacher/coach — we can think about a wide range of interacting factors, including personal factors (cognitive, affective, social/cultural) here in Part 1, and institutional factors in Part 2.

Compared with earlier models, A Holistic View of Conceptual Change takes a broader view of mental conceptual ecology, because:

    [An earlier view of] "cold conceptual change" [which was less holistic because it places less emphasis on non-cognitive factors] ignores the affective (e.g., motivation, values, interests) and social components of learning. ...  The notion of conceptual ecology... focuses solely on the learner's cognition and not on the learner as a whole.  Furthermore, it does not consider other participants (i.e., the teacher and other students) in the learning environment and how these participants influence the learner's conceptual ecology, thus influencing conceptual change. ...  Thus, conceptual change is no longer viewed as being influenced solely by cognitive factors.  Affective, social, and contextual factors also contribute to conceptual change.  All of these factors must be considered in teaching or designing learning environments."   {bold & italics added by me}

A holistic view of learning & teaching — not just to improve instruction for conceptual change, but for a wide range of educational goals (for ideas-and-skills and more) — should consider all factors (cognitive, affective, social/cultural, ...) that influence a person's learning and/or performing and/or enjoying.  These factors vary, depending on the person, idea/skill, and context.  But there are some general principles and consistencies.

Each of these factors contains sub-factors.  For example, social-cultural factors are the whole environment of a student, which includes multiple interactive factors, in school and outside.  And affective factors include all aspects of motivation (intrinsic, personal, interpersonal, extrinsic) that "contribute to how a student thinks about what they want in their whole life as a whole person," plus their self-perception (their views of self in school and in life), and (with empathy) their perceptions-of-others, and relationships with others, and more.


Educational Ecology, Part 2 — Institutional Factors

The personal factors (cognitive, affective, social/cultural) of students, and the instructional factors in a teacher's instructional ecology (described briefly and in detail) interact with institutional factors (affecting students & teachers) that include:

ways in which the instructional ecologies of individual teachers are influenced by fellow teachers, policy-makers (administrators & politicians, at the level of school, district, state, and nation) and policies,* students & parents, local community members (as individuals and in organizations) and businesses, plus global counterparts (as in online communities), and others.  All of these stakeholders have relationships with each other that exert mutual influences on each other;  these relationships, and the influences, can be improved.

*influential policies include:  evaluations of teachers, using criteria that can include standards (like Common Core for verbal+math, and Next Generation Science Standards) and competitive exams (which are especially influential if they're used to compare teachers, schools, districts, states, and nations, in addition to comparing students), and other criteria;  and compensations for teachers (and others in the system, like support staff and administrators) with salaries, benefits, and vacations.

We also can influence teachers (and help them) by providing instruction that's easy to use (and can be adapted) plus useful tips for teaching, to promote more effective learning and a better classroom atmosphere.

note: Some of these influences are not "institutional" in a technical sense, unless institutional is defined to include “everything beyond a teacher in a classroom.”

I.O.U. - More will be here later. The "more" will include a transition to the following section, and more about relationships between instructional ecology (at the level of a teacher) and educational ecology (at broader levels, beyond a single teacher, in a department & school and beyond).


Instructional Ecology

Most teachers want to improve their quality of teaching — using current methods or (despite rational reasons to avoid change) new methods — and they hope to do this without investing a lot of extra preparation time. 

They certainly want to maintain their current quality.  But when a teacher changes methods, a temporary decrease in teaching quality may occur, no matter how much time they invest in preparation.  This can happen because:

    With time and experience, a teacher has optimized the instructional ecology of their old teaching methods.  To achieve similar quality after a change, they must master new skills, and re-optimize their instructional ecology which now includes the new methods.  This is analogous, in some ways but not others, to the delayed re-optimization (with de-optimizing followed by re-optimizing) of a physical skill.
    Teachers wonder, “Will the change result in a teacher-satisfying reward of better teaching?”  If a teacher is confident that eventually the new method will be better for their students, they will be more likely to tolerate a temporary decrease of teaching quality (actual or perceived) and choose long-term performance over short-term performance, similar to the priorities in Performing (now) and/or Learning (to improve future Performing).  Although evidence-based critical evaluation can show us “good ways to bet,” there are no guarantees that new methods eventually will produce results superior to their old methods, so every change is a calculated risk.

These motivations must be considered when designing instruction (and telling teachers about options) that may achieve the goals of designing instruction that is easy-and-flexible, easy to use (so teachers are not forced to invest lots of extra preparation time) yet flexible (so they are able to customize it for their own educational goals, school-situation, and philosophy of teaching).


I.O.U. - Later, this section will be more effectively "integrated" with the sections above, about Educational Ecology, Parts 1 & 2.  The paragraph below duplicates much of what is above, and later I'll combine both into one version.

Teachers feel a responsibility to provide high-quality education for their students, and thus will be concerned if they are perceived by themselves or others (by students, parents, colleagues, or administrators) as not teaching well, even temporarily.  A desire for continually high quality is a reason for teachers to continue doing what is familiar, so it can be done skillfully now.  Learning a new method of teaching not only requires extra preparation time, but also tolerating a transition period when teaching quality (actual or perceived) may temporarily decrease.  A teacher who feels comfortable with a current system of teaching, and has invested time & effort to optimize it into an effective instructional ecology, may resist changing to a new system that requires new skills and a period of re-optimization, especially when there is no guarantee that the new methods will ever produce results that are better than the old.    { When we judge whether "the results are... better" based on criteria that over-emphasize student scores on standardized exams, unfortunately this can lead to a distortion of curriculum & instruction. }


Mental Conceptual Ecology

A concept of conceptual ecology (adaped from Stephen Toulmin, 1972) is a useful component in a model for instruction to promote Conceptual Change.  I think the authors would agree with suggestions that a wider range of factors (including cognitive plus affective and social/cultural) should be considered, viewing their paper as part of the larger picture.  Here is my summary, written in 1992 (with recent minor revisions), of a valuable paper about Conceptual Ecology and Conceptual Change:

    The concept of conceptual ecology draws analogies between biological and intellectual environments:  the environmental characteristics of an ecological niche will affect the biological natural selection occurring within its bounds;  similarly, the intellectual characteristics of individuals (and the culture of communities they establish and within which they operate) will tend to favor the development and maintenance of certain types of concepts rather than others.
    This helps to explain how “alternative conceptions” (i.e., those differing from the views of modern science) can result from a rational adaptation to a particular intellectual niche, and why these conceptions should be treated with respect — not disparaged as aberrations of logic — by historians of science (who try to understand the “misconceptions” held by scientists in the earlier days of our cultural intellectual history) and by classroom teachers (who try to understand the thinking processes of students in the earlier days of their personal intellectual history).  [our understandings of others - of historical agents, students,... - can be improved through empathetic thinking]
    The authors discuss educational implications of this ecological metaphor, claiming that a learner will be able to integrate a new concept into her personal conceptual ecology if – in her own judgement – the new concept is intelligible (it must make sense), plausible (compared with competing alternatives), and fruitful (it must contribute to the attainment of something she values).
    {Hewson, P.W., & Hewson, M.G.A’B. (1984) - The role of conceptual conflict in conceptual change and the design of instruction - in Instructional Science, 13(1), 1-13.}


I.O.U.What you see here is in a "PURPLE BOX" to show that it's underdeveloped, needing revision.


Educational Ecologies for Design-Thinking Education

I.O.U. - Eventually this section will have comments about the fact that, compared with education using my model for Design Process, "currently, education is more effective with other models."  Why?  A section about why one of my goals for Design Process is not being achieved describes how other models "are being used — in schools, businesses, online communities — and Design Process is not.  They have better educational ecologies with easy-to-use instruction and helpful method-suggestions for teachers, ways to persuade educators (in a school, business, or online) to use the model, and they have built networks of enthusiastic supporters & collaborators."  This summary of "why" will be supplemented by a few more comments here, that might include (after further development and revising, maybe in late October) some of these ideas:


I.O.U. - Currently what's below is chaotic, but I might begin "cleaning it up" sometime in 2017.

introductory overview -- effective education requires an effective educational ecology with a productive combining of many interactive factors, both personal factors (cognitive, affective, social/cultural) and institutional factors.

the effective educational ecologies that have been constructed by those with other models include:  informal communities (local & global, in person & online) of users and co-developers, and users who are co-developers;  better adoption, due to better use of factors affecting it ("marketing" strategies, support of authorities, being considered an authority, word-of-mouth grapevine, use of conferences, publications & blogs & websites, internet forums, twitter, etc);  these communities are formed by educators who are enthusiastic about exploring and developing possibilities for improving education, especially "design-thinking education" that, broadly defined, includes inquiry activities, PBL (problem-based learning, project-based learning), case studies, and other "active learning" approaches to instruction.


these 3 paragraphs will be developed and revised, and probably some parts will be cut:

I'm continuing to develop Design Process based on a confidence that the results of using it will be worthy of our investments of time & effort, that we will be rewarded with education that helps to "make life better" for students. .....

A developing of curriculum & instruction would have to be based on an accurate-and-thorough understanding of how students like to learn and how teachers like to teach, based on a more accurate-and-thorough undestanding, with better empathy for the thinking-and-feeling of students and teachers.

Here are some ideas that could be included in an introduction for this section -- I think Design Process offers many benefits, compared with other models for the process of design, regarding its accuracy in describing the process, and how we can improve it.  But those who develop-and-use other models have been far more successful in building communities of users, in "selling the idea" to others and putting it into a form that others will say "yes, we want to use this."  This success with one goal (re: describing the process) and failure with another (re: current applications in education) is described in Other Models for a Process of Design.




I.O.U. — Probably the following paragraph will be used (after revision) somewhere in this page, maybe in the "Short-Term and Long-Term" section:

We can motivate students to place a relatively higher value on "personally useful" activities (that "will help them achieve their goals for life" by improving their design-thinking skills) compared with activities that are merely "fun now."   For example, consider a context where students can learn more if they place a higher value on Personal Education:  if they are focusing only on “the thrill of victory” in pursuing a design objective [as in playing an educational game?], remind them about the joys of long-term victories, to shift their value-weighting from only-performing toward also-learning.


Tennis — Persuasion, Motives, Results

Motivational Persuasion:  Our coach persuaded me to change my backhand.  How?  He stated that he knew more about tennis than I did, which was true and I knew it;  he explained the liabilities of my current backhand grip, and the benefits of a changed grip;  he said I had natural ability that could not be fully developed with my current grip, so a change would increase my long-term satisfactions and our long-term goals for our team;  and then (because I wasn't yet persuaded enough to change) he declared that, for the long-term benefit of me and our team, he would not stand by passively and watch me waste my ability, so until my grip changed he would never let me play a match for his team.  I wanted to play, so at this point I changed my grip.  But the change was made willingly, with no grudge.  Although his mandate – if you don't change, then you will never play for me – could have been viewed with resentment as a top-down imposition of power, I didn't see it this way because with motivational persuasion he had persuaded me that he was “on my side” and we were sharing mutual goals (for me and for our team) and he was motivated by wanting to help me.  So I trusted him.  As an adult now, a less coercive approach (with a rational appeal to pursue long-term personal & group goals) would work better in most situations, but when I was 15 his approach was effective, and was genuinely appreciated, in 10th grade and much more by the end of 12th grade, when we reached our goals and achieved long-term satisfactions, as described below.

Motivations:  My initial resistance to change was not due to any deeply held belief about tennis;  I did not think my existing grip was “theoretically superior” to the grip my coach was recommending.  Instead my motives were shallow.  I simply didn't want to have less immediate enjoyment, during the temporary phase of re-optimization when I would be losing matches in the near future.  And to some extent, although I had confidence in his coaching ability there was a lack of certainty;  there was no guarantee that my backhand would eventually be better, that the decrease in performing-and-enjoying would be only temporary.

Long-Term Satisfactions:  Late in 10th grade, after my backhand had re-optimized, becoming better than it was before, I discovered the benefits of a topspin forehand and quickly improved during the summer.  By spring semester of 11th grade I was one of the best players in our city — getting 2nd in the Anaheim Closed Tennis Tournament (18-and-under) by winning against the #4 and #1 seeds, before losing to a player (Don Gerstmar the #2 seed, brother of Glenn the #1) who lived outside Anaheim, but was a member of Anaheim Tennis Club — and I was co-MVP of our team. (although Scott Nagel deserved it more, was our true MVP)   At the end of our 12th grade season, Bob Simon and I (playing doubles) won a set that “put us over the top” to clinch our victory over San Marino – who in the 1960s won 8 of the 10 CIF Titles and would have won 8 consecutive (1962-69) without our victory – for the CIF Small Schools Tennis Championship of Southern California. (btw, a "small school" was less than 2100 students for grades 10-12)   Almost certainly, these satisfying results would have been impossible with my original backhand.  Therefore, temporarily enduring a small decrease of short-term fun/satisfaction produced a much larger increase in long-term fun/satisfaction.   :<)    /    But if I had improved other aspects of my tennis (including vision & footwork) and had practiced in ways that were more effective, I would have been a better player   { How much better?  Sadly, I'll never know. }


I.O.U. - Here are some ideas that might be used in the section(s) about Factors in Educational Ecology.

• instructional ecology  /  Actually, teaching is just another area of application of Strategies for Thinking because teaching well requires a complex blending of ideas & skills (conceptual & procedural) that are mainly mental but also physical.  Strategies for Teaching

• GOALS for Performing-Enjoying-Learning - for Ideas-and-Skills & More

goals for instruction -- include maintaining flow & fun, matching how students like to learn and teachers like to teach,

• the name for another aspect of education could be... curriculum ecology? curricular ecology? instructional ecology? - Goal-Directed Designing of Curriculum & Instruction - Developing a Coordinated Wide-Spiral Curriculum - Eclectic Blending of Approaches/Methods - Design Activities (for design-inquiry & science-inquiry)