• Back
  • 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

ELA/Literacy

  • 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)

Mathematics

  • 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.
  • In this lesson, which is an associated activity to the curated resource The Science of Swinging, students further investigate the variables that affect a pendulum’s motion by riding a playground swing. Students then extend their knowledge ...

  • In this technologically interactive lesson, students generate and compare multiple solutions for transmitting information by sending a message to a phone or tablet using Google’s free Science Journal app.

  • In this engineering design challenge, students use their knowledge of science to help design and build a vehicle that is powered solely by a chemical reaction. First, they figure out the most effective combination of substances and water to create a ...

  • There are four associated activities in this lesson (which is lesson 8 in a unit on natural disasters). In the first three activities, students learn about tornadoes, the damage they cause, and how engineers consider strong winds in their design of s ...

  • In this lesson, students use the engineering design process to solve a problem. They have to figure out how to design a device that will enable them to listen to a mystery sound that is being made by a device hidden in an insulated box. Through this ...

  • This 28 minute movie from PBS depicts middle school aged students working in unison with the U.S. Naval Academy investigating oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay.  Oysters are known to help filter water, but due to a declining population of oyste ...

  • Students will be investigating the effect that balanced and unbalanced forces have on straw rockets as they design their own rocket to see how far it can travel. Students will be testing and evaluating variables, as well as collecting and analyzing f ...

  • This unit is comprised of a series of lessons that follow the 5E model, providing students with opportunities to learn about pollination on different levels. Studying the structures and functions of flowers and bees through text, video, and observati ...

  • In 2005 Hurricane Katrina caused severe damage and suffering to the people who lived in New Orleans. The levees that surrounded the city did not hold the immense amount of ocean water that rose from the storm.  In this activity, students wi ...

  • Students observe and measure a tumblewing glider's motion, conducting a series of investigations to test the effect of changes to the glider's structural features on the flight path and duration of their gliders.  The data coll ...

  • With approximately 1% of water on the planet Earth available for human consumption students will investigate various ways that engineers are working to maintain and conserve water sources. Students will research, design, and build ...

  • This resource is part of a two unit curriculum designed for fourth-graders using the 5E Instructional Model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate) to support students as they investigate the effect that height and other variables hav ...

  • In Save our Shore, students can build upon prior knowledge they have of erosion and possibly relate to what they know of damage that was done by Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. Save our Shore includes a two minute video show ...

  • This one and half minute silent video shows the phenomenon of the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge located in Washington state.  The bridge opened to traffic on July 1, 1940 and collapsed only four months later on November 7, ...

  • This engineering activity (Lesson 3) is part of a unit on Earth’s Changing Surface, highlighting earthquakes and how humans can prepare and protect themselves from the forces of nature. The unit follows the 5E model where the students are engag ...

  • Everyday Science Mysteries is an award-winning series that enables students to explore science phenomena/mysteries that occur in their everyday lives.  In this "Everyday Science Mystery" students explore the many variables that affect ...

  • In Feel the Heat, students follow the engineering design process to build a solar hot water heater and redesign their device to see how big a temperature change they can get by changing different variables. The phenomenon of energ ...

  • Students will be acting as agricultural engineers as they conduct a scientific experiment to test the effectiveness of a sustainable pest-control technique called soil biosolarization that uses organic waste (oatmeal, flour or cornstarch) r ...

  • This unit activity combines learning about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment along with the engineering design process to create a water filtration system.  Constraints a ...

  • This paper rocket activity is part of the NASA Rocket Educator Guide (https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/topnav/materials/listbytype/Rockets.html) that emphasizes hands-on science, prediction, data collection and interpretation ...

  • Students work in teams to design their own seismographs using everyday materials, (string, wire, paper, pencil, marker, pen, paper clips, glue, cardboard, poster board, foil, rubber bands, tape, pan or tray, clay) then test their design to recor ...

  • 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.

  • Students plan and carry out investigations before developing and using models to describe patterns of waves in terms of amplitude and wavelength, and to demonstrate that waves can cause objects to move. Connections are made to real world example ...

  • 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, Ear ...

  • 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 mi ...

  • 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 high-t ...

  • In this activity, students use the SCAMPER brainstorming tool to design a car that can overcome air resistance. The SCAMPER strategy encourages students through a series of questions, to brainstorm things they could change or modify to make a di ...

  • 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” t ...

  • 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, students consider ...

  • In this engineering activity, students are challenged to design and construct a roof that will protect a cardboard house from getting wet.   The criteria and constraints for the design is that students need to develop a roofing system ...

  • 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 spac ...

  • 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 Rac ...

  • 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 explore how for ...

  • 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 op ...

  • This engineering lesson is part of An Educators Guide to the Engineering Design Process Grades 3-5 created by NASA to guide students in understanding how humans can be protected from the temperature variations found on the Moon. To understand the cha ...

  • 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 create ...

  • 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 were d ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 t ...

  • 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 ...

  • Do you have a great resource to share with the community? Click here.
  • Students will examine the growth, composition, history, and uses of corn through a close reading activity, discussion of renewable and non-renewable resources, and hands-on exploration of bioplastics made from corn.

  • From TeachEngineering - Student pairs design and construct small, wind-powered sail cars using limited quantities of drinking straws, masking tape, paper and beads. Teams compete to see which sail car travels the farthest when pushed by the wind (sim...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn about providing healthcare in a global setting and the importance of wearing protective equipment when treating patients with infectious diseases like Ebola. They learn about biohazard suits, heat transfer throu...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn about oil spills and their environmental and economic effects. They experience the steps of the engineering design process as they brainstorm potential methods for oil spill clean-up, and then design, build and ...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students act as structural engineers and learn about forces and load distributions as they follow the steps of the engineering design process to design and build small-scale bridges using wooden tongue depressors and glue. Tea...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students revisit the Pop Rockets activity from Lesson 3, in which mini paper rockets are powered by the chemical reaction of antacid-tablets and water in plastic film canisters. This time, however, the design of their pop rock...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students act as engineers contracted by NASA to create water filtration devices that clean visible particulates from teacher-prepared "dirty water." They learn about the worldwide need for potable water and gain appreciation f...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students design, build and test model race cars made from simple materials (lifesaver-shaped candies, plastic drinking straws, Popsicle sticks, index cards, tape) as a way to explore independent, dependent and control variable...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn about material reuse by designing and building the strongest and tallest towers they can, using only recycled materials. They follow design constraints and build their towers to withstand earthquake and high win...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students build small-sized prototypes of mountain rescue litters—rescue baskets for use in hard-to-get-to places, such as mountainous terrain—to evacuate an injured person (modeled by a potato) from the backcountry. Groups des...

  • PowerPoint used within the session. Notes on the slides contain all links, videos and activity guides.

  • From TeachEngineering - Students are asked to design methods to filter water using ordinary materials, while also considering their designs' material and cost efficiencies. They learn about the importance of water and its role in our everyday lives. ...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn how engineers design and construct buildings to withstand earthquake damage by building their own model structures using toothpicks and marshmallows. They experiment to see how earthquake-proof their buildings a...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students explore the inhalation/exhalation process that occurs in the lungs during respiration. Using everyday materials, each student team creates a model pair of lungs.

  • From TeachEngineering - Students are introduced to brainstorming and the design process in problem solving as it relates to engineering. They perform an activity to develop and understand problem solving with an emphasis on learning from history. Usi...

  • From TeachEngineering - Student teams investigate the properties of electromagnets. They create their own small electromagnets and experiment with ways to change their strength to pick up more paperclips. Students learn about ways that engineers use ...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students design and build a model city powered by the sun! They learn about the benefits of solar power, and how architectural and building engineers integrate photovoltaic panels into the design of buildings.

  • From TeachEngineering - Students filter different substances through a plastic window screen, different sized hardware cloth and poultry netting. Their models show how the thickness of a filter in the kidney is imperative in determining what is filte...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students experience the engineering design process as they design and build accurate and precise catapults using common materials. They use their catapults to participate in a game in which they launch Ping-Pong balls to attem...

  • From TeachEngineering - In this hands-on activity, students investigate different methods—aeration and filtering—for removing pollutants from water. Working in teams, they design, build and test their own water filters—essentially conducting their ow...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn about civil engineers and work through each step of the engineering design process in two mini-activities that prepare them for a culminating challenge to design and build the tallest straw tower possible, given...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students design and build paper rockets around film canisters, which serve as engines. An antacid tablet and water are put into each canister, reacting to form carbon dioxide gas, and acting as the pop rocket's propellant. Wit...

  • From TeachEngineering - Student groups conduct a scientific experiment to help an engineering team determine which type of insulation conserves the most energy—a comparison of newspaper, wool, aluminum foil and thin plastic. They learn about differen...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students observe a model waterwheel to investigate the transformations of energy involved in turning the blades of a hydro-turbine. They work as engineers to create model waterwheels while considering resources such as time an...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn about using renewable energy from the sun for heating and cooking as they build and compare the performance of four solar cooker designs. They explore the concepts of insulation, reflection, absorption, conducti...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn how the aerodynamics and rolling resistance of a car affect its energy efficiency through designing and constructing model cars out of simple materials. As the little cars are raced down a tilted track (powered ...

  • From TeachEngineering - The purpose of this activity is 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 three different sand castles and tes...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students create their own anemometers—instruments for measuring wind speed. They see how an anemometer measures wind speed by taking measurements at various school locations. They also learn about different types of anemometer...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students explore the use of wind power in the design, construction and testing of "sail cars," which, in this case, are little wheeled carts with masts and sails that are powered by the moving air generated from a box fan. The...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn how engineers transform wind energy into electrical energy by building their own miniature wind turbines and measuring the electrical current they produce. They explore how design and position affect the electri...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students practice the ability to produce clear, complete, accurate and detailed design drawings through an engineering design challenge. Using only the specified materials, teams are challenged to draw a design for a wind-powe...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students design and construct devices to trap insects that are present in the area around the school. The objective is to ask the right design questions and conduct the right tests to determine if the traps work.

  • From TeachEngineering - Students see how potential energy (stored energy) can be converted into kinetic energy (motion). Acting as if they were engineers designing vehicles, they use rubber bands, pencils and spools to explore how elastic potential e...

  • From TeachEngineering - In this multi-day activity, students explore environments, ecosystems, energy flow and organism interactions by creating a scale model biodome, following the steps of the engineering design process. The Procedure section provi...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn about the difference between temperature and thermal energy. They create thermometers using simple materials and develop their own scales for measuring temperature. They compare their thermometers to a commercia...

  • From TeachEngineering - The difference between architects and engineers can be confusing because their roles in building design can be similar. Students experience a bit of both professions by following a set of requirements and meeting given constra...

  • From TeachEngineering - During a power failure, or when we go outside at night, we grab a flashlight so we can find our way. What happens inside a flashlight that makes the bulb light up? Why do we need a switch to turn on a flashlight? Have you ever...

  • From TeachEngineering - Working as if they are engineers who work for (the hypothetical) Build-a-Toy Workshop company, students apply their imaginations and the engineering design process to design and build prototype toys with moving parts. They set...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students construct small-sized model rocket-powered boats—"aqua-thrusters"—that are made from film canisters propelled by carbon dioxide gas produced from a chemical reaction between antacid tablets and water. They make predic...

  • From TeachEngineering - In this activity, students learn about their heart rate and different ways it can be measured. Students construct a simple measurement device using clay and a toothpick, and then use this device to measure their heart rate und...

  • From TeachEngineering - In this activity, students use a variety of materials to design and create headphones that absorb sound. Just like acoustical engineers, students design headphones using sound-absorbing materials.

  • From TeachEngineering - In this open-ended design activity, students use everyday materials—milk cartons, water bottles, pencils, straws, candy—to build small-scale transportation devices. They incorporate the use two simple machines—a wheel and axle...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students investigate motors and electromagnets as they construct their own simple electric motors using batteries, magnets, paperclips and wire. Like engineers, students must understand and apply the connection between elect...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students explore the concept of biodegradability by building and observing model landfills to test the decomposition of samples of everyday garbage items. They collect and record experiment observations over five days, seeing ...

  • From TeachEngineering - Athletes often wear protective gear to keep themselves safe in contact sports. In this spirit, students follow the steps of engineering design process as they design, build and test protective padding for an egg drop. Many of ...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students discover the relationship between an object's mass and the amount of space it takes up (its volume). As they create small boats using clay, they learn about the concept of displacement and how an object can float if i...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn the purpose of a fever in the body's immune system and how it protects the body against germs. The students continue to explore temperature by creating a model thermometer and completing a temperature conversion...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students use their creative skills to determine a way to safely mail raw (dry, uncooked) spaghetti using only the provided materials. To test the packing designs, the spaghetti is mailed through the postal system and evaluated...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn about biomimicry and how engineers often imitate nature in the design of innovative new products. They demonstrate their knowledge of biomimicry by practicing brainstorming and designing a new product based on w...

  • Students gain an understanding of air pressure by using candy or cookie wafers to model how it changes with altitude, by comparing its magnitude to gravitational force per unit area, and by observing its magnitude with an aluminum can crushing experi...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students explore how different materials (sand, gravel, lava rock) with different water contents on different slopes result in landslides of different severity. They measure the severity by how far the landslide debris extends...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn how to use wind energy to combat gravity and create lift by creating their own tetrahedral kites capable of flying. They explore different tetrahedron kite designs, learning that the geometry of the tetrahedron ...

  • From TeachEngineering - Using common materials (spools, string, soap), students learn how a pulley can be used to easily change the direction of a force, making the moving of large objects easier. They see the difference between fixed and movable pul...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students use a table-top-sized tsunami generator to observe the formation and devastation of a tsunami. They see how a tsunami moves across the ocean and what happens when it reaches the continental shelf. Students make villag...

  • From TeachEngineering - In this activity, students construct their own pinhole camera to observe the behavior of light.

  • Part of 4th grade energy unit. I adapted the typical lesson structure to give it an engineering feel and allow students to apply the engineering design process we've been using in STEM class. For the exit ticket, I showed them a desk lamp plugged int...

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