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  • Grades 3-5

    Engineering Design

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

  1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. 3-5-ETS1-1

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. 3-5-ETS1-2

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  3. Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved. 3-5-ETS1-3

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

A Peformance Expectation (PE) is what a student should be able to do to show mastery of a concept. Some PEs include a Clarification Statement and/or an Assessment Boundary. These can be found by clicking the PE for "More Info." By hovering over a PE, its corresponding pieces from the Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts will be highlighted.

Science and Engineering Practices

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to include investigations that control variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to the use of evidence in constructing explanations that specify variables that describe and predict phenomena and in designing multiple solutions to design problems.

By clicking on a specific Science and Engineering Practice, Disciplinary Core Idea, or Crosscutting Concept, you can find out more information on it. By hovering over one you can find its corresponding elements in the PEs.

Planning Curriculum

Common Core State Standards Connections


  • RI.5.1 - Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. (3-5-ETS1-2)
  • RI.5.7 - Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently. (3-5-ETS1-2)
  • RI.5.9 - Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably. (3-5-ETS1-2)
  • W.5.7 - Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic. (3-5-ETS1-1), (3-5-ETS1-3)
  • W.5.8 - Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; summarize or paraphrase information in notes and finished work, and provide a list of sources. (3-5-ETS1-1), (3-5-ETS1-3)
  • W.5.9 - Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (3-5-ETS1-1), (3-5-ETS1-3)


  • 3.OA - Operations and Algebraic Thinking (3-5-ETS1-1), (3-5-ETS1-2)
  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (3-5-ETS1-1), (3-5-ETS1-2), (3-5-ETS1-3)
  • MP.4 - Model with mathematics. (3-5-ETS1-1), (3-5-ETS1-2), (3-5-ETS1-3)
  • MP.5 - Use appropriate tools strategically. (3-5-ETS1-1), (3-5-ETS1-2), (3-5-ETS1-3)

Model Course Mapping

First Time Visitors

Resources & Lesson Plans

  • More resources added each week!
    A team of teacher curators is working to find, review, and vet online resources that support the standards. Check back often, as NSTA continues to add more targeted resources.
  • This activity helps to demonstrate the importance of rocks, soils, and minerals in engineering and how using the right material for the right job is important. The students build 3 different sand castles composed of varying amounts of sand, water, a…

  • This engineering design lesson focuses on the effects of erosion on Florida's coastline. It is one lesson offered within a larger weathering and erosion unit. Students groups work to create and use a model able to slow erosion, without damaging the c…

  • This fun activity is one of five in a series of space based engineering challenges developed by NASA and Design Squad where students are engaged in implementing the Engineering Design process to build a robotic arm that can lift a cup off a table usi…

  • Students are given a scenario/problem that needs to be solved:  Their school is on a field trip to the city to listen to a rock band concert. After arriving at the concert, the students find out that the band’s instruments wer…

  • Using the engineering design process,students will be designing and building a lantern that they will hypothetically be taking with them as they explore a newly discovered cave. The criteria of the completed lantern will include: hands need to be f…

  • This activity is a culmination of a 16 day unit of study where students explore the biosphere's environments and ecosystems. In this final activity, students apply what they learned about plants, animals, and decomposers to design and cre…

  • This three part lesson presents students with the real-world problem that engineers deal with when constructing earthquake safe buildings on unstable soils. The lesson is designed in the 5E inquiry format. Emphasis is placed on giving students the…

  • To Get to the Other Side: Designing Bridges is an engineering unit from EIE and The Museum of Science in Boston geared towards Grades 1-5.  Students will be building upon their knowledge of pushes and pulls as they exp…

  • Through experimentation and active investigation of motion and forces, students are challenged to design, build, and test a simple gravity-powered car that is at least 8 cm wide and less than 30 cm long.  The completed Gravity …

  • This activity is one in a series of Mission: Solar System design challenges developed by PBS’s Design Squad, NASA and the National Science Foundation.  Students design, build, and improve a model that mimics gravity-assisted s…

  • Students are introduced to the trial, error, and redesign of the engineering process in the book  Captain Arsenio: Adventures and (Mis) adventures in Flight by Pablo Bernasconi. In a follow up activity, stude…

  • In this culuminating activity, the students will be connecting the scientific phenomena of how electric circuits work into their everyday lives.   Students will be working in pairs to design and wire a shoebox “room&rdquo…

  • Students use a table-top tsunami generator to test how different materials used in house models (created by students and the teacher) are impacted by a simulated tsunami. Students discuss the work of engineers who design buildings and use hig…

  • Students learn about natural hazards and the means engineers have developed to detect these hazards as a means of preventing  natural disasters. Students match engineered natural disaster prevention devices with natural hazards they…

  • Students observe types of destruction that occur when an earthquake strikes an area in this 5E structured lesson. Students view teacher selected videos before comparing observed earthquake destruction depicted in the Seymour Simon book, …

  • Students model how NASA uses radios waves signals to encode, transmit and decode information using a metronome and musical instruments.  Students are then challenged to design a faster way to send signals.

Planning Curriculum gives connections to other areas of study for easier curriculum creation.