STEM Focus Problem – Three Little Pigs Building Structure

STEM Focus Problem – Three Little Pigs Building Structure
Overview: Students learn about the importance of using the right materials for the job by building
different structures and testing them for strength and resistance to weathering. They then discuss how
the buildings are different and what engineers need to think about when using materials for
Grade Level: Kindergarten
Possible Time Frame: 1 week
Rationale/The Focus Problem: (must include a real world connection) Every day construction
companies have to figure out what materials to use to build very strong homes that keep your family
safe during all kinds of weather. The three little pigs faced this very same problem! Can you help the
third little pig design a house that will keep the family safe during all kinds of wind and weather?
Outcome: Students will design a structure using at least three different shapes, and two different
materials, that will stay standing under the force of wind.
Keywords: (from multiple disciplines – could be an anchor chart or word wall in the classroom):
In front of
Next to
Engineering Design Process (EDP)
- Various shapes cut out of cardboard
- Templates for students to trace and cut shapes out of recycled materials
- A bucket of various recycled materials, including different compositions of materials such as
cardboard, plastic, paper, etc. (have students bring these supplies in over the course of the
- Scissors (some cutting may require adult assistance)
- Glue and/or tape for assembly
- EDP Planning Sheet
- Fan or Hairdryer
- Plastic Pigs ($1 Store Item)
- A base of cardboard (1 per student) – pre-cut squares all the same size
- Some sort of monetary exchange – 1 to 1 – beans, coins, pasta shells, etc.
Standards Addressed: what standards do students need mastery of in order to solve the problem?
CCGPS.K.G.1 Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and
describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below,
beside, in front of, behind, and next to.
CCGPS.K.G.2 Correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall
CCGPS.K.G.5 Model shapes in the world by building shapes from components
(e.g., sticks and clay balls) and drawing shapes.
CCGPS.K.G.6 Compose simple shapes to form larger shapes. For example, “Can
you join these two triangles with full sides touching to make a rectangle?”
Technology – see
MTA Technology
Report Card
SKP1. Students will describe objects in terms of the materials they are made
of and their physical properties.
a. Compare and sort materials of different composition (common
materials include clay, cloth, paper, plastic, etc.).
b. Use senses to classify common materials, such as buttons or
swatches of cloth, according to their physical attributes (color,
size, shape, weight, texture, buoyancy, flexibility).
Internet - Understand the purpose of the internet and
Observe the teacher using the internet
ELACCKRL3: With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and
major events in a story.
ELACCKRL10: Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose
and understanding.
Other (ELA,
Reading, Social
Studies, etc)
ELACCKSL2: Confirm understanding of written texts read aloud or
information presented orally or through media by asking and answering
questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not
SSKE3 The student will explain how money is used to purchase goods and
SSKE4 The student will explain that people must make choices because they
cannot have everything they want.
Engineering Design Process
at the
teach the content
You should have read “The Three Little Pigs” at least once before presenting the
Focus Problem.
Present the focus problem and then lead students in a guided 20 Questions
session. Below are some ideas of questions you want to try to lead them to
asking, or even present them as examples.
(30 – 40 minutes)
20 Questions
Portion of PBCL
**Teacher may choose to read “Asking Questions” from the “Science and
Engineering Practices” strand on Pebble Go before getting into the 20 questions
with students
What kinds of materials are used to make buildings? What shapes do we see in
buildings? Why are some buildings made taller than others? What shapes
would be the strongest shapes? What force
During the teaching of the content you will continue to refer to the questions and
the focus problem to remind students that at the end of teaching the content, they
will be able to answer the focus problem.
Guided Research:
- Teacher will model using the internet to show students a safari montage
video about how engineers go through the process to design and build
Civil Engineers Build Skyscrapers
After you have
taught all content
necessary (see
standards above)
If they are not familiar with the story, read “The Three Little Pigs” ,
stopping before you read about the 3rd pig, to the students.
Ask “How could an engineer help the pigs?”
(15 - 20 minutes)
Expert Research
Portion of PBCL
What kind of houses did the first two pigs build? What happened to them
when the wolf huffed and puffed?
What type of house could an engineer design and build that wolf would
not be able to blow down?
How will we know if it will be able to stand up to the wolf’s huffing and
Teacher will read “Using Models” from the “Science and Engineering Practices”
strand on Pebble Go to explain that students will be making models of houses for
the three little pigs.
(15 minutes)
Group Sharing
Meeting from
Give students their constraints:
- Must use at least 3 different shapes in your design
- Must use at least 2 different types of materials in your design
- Must have an opening for the pig to get in and out
- At least one pig must fit inside
- Must use 6 items or less (pay for each item – 1 to 1 counting)
- Must fit on the piece of land (pre-cut base)
Show students the bucket of materials. Allow time for them to explore the
materials. Talk about what kind of materials are available. Talk about how they
can cut out more than one shape from one piece of material – for example, they
might could cut out 4 walls from one cereal box.
Allow time for students to draw a diagram of their pig home, label it, and write
their materials list (may need to be some cut and paste options, or dictation
options for some students)
45 minutes
Tell students that they are about to come to the MTA Home Depot to buy their
supplies for their design. The workers at MTA Home Depot are very strict!
Here are their rules:
1. You can only visit the store 1 time. So buy everything you need
on the first trip.
2. You cannot visit the store until you have an approved Design
3. No refunds or exchanges – once you buy, you have to work with
those supplies.
Have students come to the store and “buy” their supplies, and allow them time to
work on building their designs.
Time varies
Test the buildings! Use a fan or hair drier to test each building. At the end of
testing all the buildings, have the students vote on the best one or two buildings
and be able to justify WHY they were the best. Speak to various reasons for why
that could be the best: stayed standing with the most wind, used the most variety
of materials, was the cheapest to build, etc.
If times allows – this step is truly for improvements to their original plan. If time
allows, you could let students analyze what they could do to make their building
better, and then make a new plan, buy more supplies, and make improvements to
their building. Or send this step home as a family project.