Picture Stem Designing Toy Box Organizers

Tamara J. Moore Kristina M. Tank Elizabeth Gajdzik
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Model
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In this comprehensive STEM unit that utilizes science, math, technology, and language arts in 13-15 classroom sessions, students investigate standard units of measure and sort and classify objects according to their physical properties before applying them to design a toy box organizer. Lessons 5B, 6A, and 6B will be the focus of this resource.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Elementary School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

K-2-ETS1-2 Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
After students have experienced a review of the the engineering process, have listened to several stories, and done measurement activities connected to the challenge, they draw or sketch their idea before creating a model that will meet the challenge. Students should be given several class sessions to complete, test, and redesign their toy box organizer.

2-PS1-1 Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.

Clarification Statement: Observations could include color, texture, hardness, and flexibility. Patterns could include the similar properties that different materials share.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students are given the challenge to design a toy box organizer. They must use materials they have sorted and classified by their observable properties. Students will need to have prior knowledge of physical properties of materials before creating the organizer. They need to have a lot of time to explore many different materials to see which will work best in the organizer.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students make first hand observations, listen to books (media), design, and measure their model to see if it will meet the challenge of creating a toy box organizer. They are working in groups to do this. Make sure someone in the group is keeping data on which materials and how their placement in the box work to keep the toys in their place. That data can be used when the organizer is tested and redesigned to meet the challenge goal.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
When the the organizer for the toy box is constructed students are using a variety of materials to do this. They need to use their knowledge from prior lessons about the physical properties of materials (strength flexibility, elasticity, etc) to construct the organizer.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students are using a variety of materials to construct their toy box organizer. The shape and stability of their materials have to be related to the function of that organizer to keep the toys in place. Students should be reminded to draw the results of each test and retest to show how the shape and stability of the materials helped the organizer to function correctly (keeping the toys in place).

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This unit is very comprehensive and not only contains all three dimensions of the NGSS, but integrates science, math, technology, and language arts throughout it. The lessons build upon each other and the focus of the unit is help students design solutions to a problem (how to create a toy box organizer. The unit will take several weeks to complete and time should be taken to make sure students understand concepts presented in a lesson before going on to the next lesson.

  • Instructional Supports: Students are given numerous opportunities to express, clarify, justify, interpret, and represent their ideas and to respond to peer and teacher feedback orally and/or in written form as appropriate. The lessons are presented in a sequential order so the teacher can see how the prior learning in one lesson will be built upon. There are no direct suggestions in the unit about differentiated instruction but a teacher could group students together so there were several levels in a group. There are many uses of graphics or posters to help students.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Teachers use formative assessment when asking students questions during lessons. Students also documenting their work in lessons (worksheets completed, sketches, drawings, writings). Students write a letter to the toy box company (Talia) that could count as assessment also.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is one lesson in the unit that uses computers technology.