Teaching Ideas Showcase: Building Things (Activity Centres for Grades 1 and 3 Science)
For further assistance in using any of the resources in the lab, please ask at the Curriculum
Lab Information Services Desk
Objectives of Handout/Workshop
- To introduce the user to a variety of "building things" kits, and related recommended literature titles on 10 "building things" themes.
- To provide the user with detailed learning centres instructions, suitable for the grade one and three Alberta science curriculum, based on the kits and books in this handout.
- To engage grade 1 or 3 students in "the great building things challenge," where the students achieve four levels of engineering excellence:
- Beginner: build a better bridge
- Rookie: browse a better "building things" book
- Novice: follow a plan to construct a building things model
- Expert: students create or draw their own "building thing." (Note: Upon completion, students will be awarded an "Expert Engineer's Certificate."
Potential Curriculum Connections
Grade One Science, Topic 1C: Building Things
It includes constructing objects using a variety of materials, and identifying the purpose of the different components in an object. It can include building models, objects toys, pop-up books, and wind and water related objects.
Grade Three Science, Topic 3B: Building With A Variety of Materials and Topic 3C Testing Materials and Designs
It includes building things, all for specific purposes, (e.g. to support objects, span gaps, serve as containers, or serve as models) from available materials. Students will compare and contrast the suitability and strengths of various building materials.
See the Alberta Science curriculum more information:
- The Elementary Program of Studies, available at 375 General Alta. Gr 1-6, covers what must be taught in Alberta schools.
- The Teacher Resource Manuals provide suggestions on how teachers may implement the Program of Studies outcomes:
- Let's Do Science: Grades 1-6 -- These titles are published by the Science Alberta Foundation, not Alberta Learning, but they are available at 375 Science Alta. Gr.1-6. The guides are designed to help elementary teachers plan, implement, and evaluate the outcomes in the elementary Program of Studies.
Bardon, Keith. Exploring forces and structures. 530 Bar
Build it up and build it up teacher's guide. 624.1 Bui Gr. 3 v.1
Evans, David. Building things. 530 Eva. Gr. 1
Design team and Design team teacher's guide. 624.1 Des Gr. 1 v. 1
Dixon, Malcolm. Structures. 624 Dix Gr. 3
Edmonton Public Schools. Building things. 624 Bui
Edmonton Public Schools. Building with a variety of
materials. 624 Bui
Edmonton Public Schools. Testing materials and designs.
Haslam Andrew. Building. 624 Has Gr. 3
Moulte, Carole. Stability: structures and mechanisms.
621.8 Sta. Gr. 3
Rose, Dawn. Building and testing with a variety of
materials: lessons for grade 3. 624 Ros Gr. 3
VanCleave, Janice. Janice VanCleave's machines. 621.8 Van
Williams, Peter. take a technowalk: to learn about
mechanisms and energy, grades K-8. 621.81 Wil
Preparation, and List of Materials
- Signs for the "building things challenge:" the 4 levels of engineering excellence
- Expert Engineer's Certificate
- Literature and kit activity centre instructions
- Assemble a few props, with associated pieces of paper to build a better bridge, as outlined below.
- Select books from your school library, or the Curriculum Laboratory on the subjects listed below.
- Get the kits that interest you from the Curriculum Laboratory, or use your own building things kits and themes.
- Pop-up card template.
- Glue stick for making the pop-up card.
- Envelopes for the pyramid, as well as scissors, ruler, and and pen or pencil.
- Each student should have paper and crayons for the extra activities.
1) Beginner: Build a Better Bridge
The following introductory activities are modeled after
activities suggested in:
Fitzpatrick, Julie. (1986). Towers
and bridges. London: Evans Brothers.
p. 17-23. (624.2 Fit Gr.3)
Arley, Neil. (1984). Force and
strength. New York: Franklin Watts. p. 10-12. (531
- Ask the students, "How can
I build a bridge, using two sheets of paper, that can support an object?"
- Demonstrate some possible configurations, as illustrated
- At the end, explain when building things, some ways of building make an structure "strong" or "useable", and some ways of building make a structure "weak" or "unusable." They should look for these ways of building "strong" or "useable" structures in their activities, just like an engineer would.
- It is interesting to show them a "weak" or "unusable" bridge, such as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, nicknamed "Galloping Gertie," which collapsed in 1940.
2) Rookie: browse a better "building things" book
3) Novice: follow a plan to construct a "building things" model
4) Expert: students create or draw their own "building thing."
Each of these activities make use of the Activity Centres Instructions, which should be printed and displayed with each appropriate activity. Pick the activity centres which are best suited for your students, and modify them, based on your resources. Each centre includes a building kit and related boos, from the Curriculum Laboratory. There are subject headings listed below for each centre, which can be used to find similar titles in your local library.
Simple Machines, Super Machines, and Super Structures
This Centre uses the Magnetic Discovery Kit (Magnetic 538.4 Mag), available through Lee Valley Tools.
Search the library catalogue for these subjects: structures, machinery, engineering, simple machines, physics experiments, and building.
Ardley, Neil. Force and strength. 531 Ard
Crowther, Robert. Robert Crowther's pop-up book of amazing facts
and feats: deep down underground. 624.19 Cro
Freeman, John. Super machines. 621.8 Fre
Jennings, Terry. Cranes, dump truck, bulldozers and other
building machines. 629.225 Jen
Kalman, Bobbie. Everyday structures from a to z. 624
Kilby, Don. At a construction site (Book accompanied by
magnets). 629.225 Kil
Lewis, Allen. Super structures. 624 Lew
Macaulay, David. Underground. 624.19 Mac
Sobel. June. B is for bulldozer. F Sob
Steen, Sandra. Car wash. F Ste
Tryon, Leslie. Albert's alphabet. 421.1 Try
This centre uses the Duplo Early Simple Machines Kit (Oversize 621.811 Dup Gr.EC-3), available through the Alberta Government Learning Resources Centre.
Search the library catalogue for these subjects: trucks, road machinery, automobiles, agricultural machinery.
Adams, Georgie. Highway builders. 629.225 Ada
Bingham, Caroline. Tractor. 629.2252 Bin
Bushey, Jerry. Farming the land: modern farmers and their
machines. 631 Bus
Cole, Joanna. Cars and how they go. 629.2222 Col
Crews, Donald. Truck. F Cre
Deschamps, Nicola. Digger. 629.225 Des
Kilby, Don. At a construction site. 629.225 Kil
Pearson, Debora. Load 'em up trucks. 629.224 Pea
Rex, Michael. Truck Duck. F Rex
Stickland, Paul. Truck Jam. F Sti
Weatherby, Brenda and Mark. The trucker. F Wea
This centre uses the Early Structures Set Construction Set (Oversize 624 Ear), available through Spectrum Educational Supplies Limited.
Search the library catalogue for these subjects: bridges.
Bell, Babs. The bridge is up! F Bel
Fitzpatrick, Julie. Towers and bridges. 624.2 Fit. Gr. 3
Johmann, Carol. Bridges! Amazing structures to design,
build, and test. 624.2 Joh
Kaner, Etta. Bridges. 624.25 Kan
Petty, Kate. Bridges. 624.2 Pet Gr. 3
This centre uses the Magnetic Master Kit (Magnetic 538 Mag), available through Lee Valley Tools.
Search the library catalogue for these subjects: buildings, CN Tower, architecture, skyscrapers, and building.
Brown, David. The Random House book of how things were
built. 720.9 Bro
CN Tower. 725.971 Cn
Greene, Meg. The CN Tower. 725.97 Gre
Gerstein, Mordicai. The man who walked between the towers.
Gibbons, Gail. Up goes the skyscraper. 690 Gib Gr. 3
Gibson, Diane. Wind power. 621.45 Gib
This centre uses a plain business envelope, one for each student at the centre.
Search the library catalogue for these subjects:pyramids,
Egypt -- Antiquities.
Coulter, Laurie. All about Maya hieroglyphs. 497.42 Cou
Dennis, Peter. Pyramid. 690.68 Har
Longley, Elizabeth. Egyptian pyramid. 690.68 Lon
Macaulay, David. Pyramid. 690.68 Mac
Pemberton, Delia. Egyptian mummies. 932 Pem
Tanaka, Shelley. Secrets of the mummies: uncovering the
bodies of ancient Egyptians. 932.01 Tan
(See the Toy
and Movable Books handout for more
This Centre uses the Pop-up card
template, one for each student.
Search the library catalogue for
these subjects: toy and movable books.
Alice's adventures in Wonderland : a pop-up adaptation of Lewis
Carroll's original tale / by Robert Sabuda. F Sab
Carle, Eric. Please get the moon for me. F Car
Faulkner, Keith. The wide-mouthed frog: a pop-up
book. F Fau
Irvine, Joan. How to make pop-ups. 745.54 Irv
Jones, Frances. Nature's deadly creatures. 591.69 Jon
Pelham, David. Sam's pizza. F Pel
Valenta, Barbara. Pop-o-mania : how to create your own pop-ups. 745.54 Val
The wonderful wizard of Oz / by L. Frank Baum ; art by Robert
Sabuda. F Sab
This centre uses the Polydron Kit (Oversize 516.22
Pol), available through Spectrum
. Asimilar set could be used as well, called G-O-Frames: Geometry-on-Frames (Oversize 516.15 Gof), available through LRC.
Note: There are enough pieces in the kit, and enough
books, that this station could be made into two stations, assuming the
students are not moving from station-to-station. Perhaps the
students could build whatever they want at the second station.
Search the library catalogue for
these subjects: house construction, igloos, dwellings, home,
castles, architecture, Indians of North America -- dwellings, animal
Ashman, Linda. Castles, caves and honeycombs. F Cas
Barton, Byron. Building a house. 690.837 Bar
Collier, John. The backyard. F Col
Crowther, Robert. Robert Crowther's amazing pop-up house of
inventions. 609 Cro
Crum, Shutta. House in the meadow. F Cru
High, Linda. Barn Savers. 690.8922 Hig
Karavasil, Josephine. Houses and homes around the world.
Kitchen, Bert. And so they build. 591.564 Kit
Liebman, Dan. I want to be a builder. 624.023 Lie
Millet, Claude. The castle. 728.81 Mil
Robbins, Ken. Building a house. 690.837 Rob
Rounds, Glen. Sod houses on the great plains. 693.2 rou
Shemie, Bonnie. Building Canada. 720.971 She
Shemie, Bonnie. Houses of bark: tipi, wigwam and
longhouse. 970.1 She
Steltzer, Ulli. Building an igloo. 693.91 Ste
Suen, Anastasia. Raise the roof! F Sue
Wilkes, Angela. Animal homes. 591.564 Wil
Ms. Holmes and her students at Lomond School go wild with the Polydron and G-O-Frames kits:
This centre uses the Small Planks Kit (691.1 Sma), available through Lee
Search the library catalogue for
subjects: buildings, totem poles, architecture, skyscrapers, and
Greene, Meg. The CN Tower. 725.97 Gre
Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane. Totem pole. 730.89 Hoy
Jessop, Joanne. The X-ray picture book of big buildings of the
ancient world. 720 Jes
Macaulay, David. Building big. 720 Mac
Macaulay, David, Unbuilding. 690.523 Mac
Osband, Gillian. Castles. 728.81 Osb
Oxlade, Chris. Skyscrapers. 720.483 Oxl
Simon, Seymour. Let's try it out with towers and bridges.624.1 Sim
This centre uses the Kid K'NEX Classroom Collection Kit (Oversize
624 Kid), available through Spectrum
Search the library catalogue for
animals, dangerous animals, poisonous animals, animal defenses,
Aruego, Jose and Ariene Dewey. Weird animals: unlikely
allies in the animal kingdom. 577.85 Aru
Carle, Eric. Eric Carle's animals, animals. 808.81 Car
Chen, Tony. Animals showing off. 591.56 Chen
Coster-Longman, Christina. Creepy crawlies. 598.7 Cos
Day, Trevor. Youch! It bites! 591.65 Day
Hickman, Pamela. Animals eating. 591.53 Hic
Jenkins, Steve. What do you do when something wants to eat
you? 591.47 Jen
Jenskins, Steve. What do you do with a tail like this? 573.87 Jen
Kaner, Etta. Animals defenses: how animals protect
themselves. 591.47 Kan
Kaner, Etta. Animals at work: how animals build, dig, fish
and trap. 591.5 Kan
Marks, Julie. Good thing you're not an octopus! F Mar
McGrath, Susan. The amazing things animals do. 591.51 McG
Parsons, Alexandra. Amazing poisonous animals. 591.65 Par
Pearson, Deborah. Animachines. 591 Pea
Prelustsky, Jack. Scranimals. 811.54 Pre
Simon, Seymour. Animals nobody loves. 591.65 Sim
Marbleworks, and Stuck-On Marbleworks (Trains and Castles)
This Centre uses the Castle Marbleworks
Play Tower (Oversize 371.337 Cas) and the Stuck on Marbleworks (Oversize
371.337 Stu) Kits, available through Discovery
The Curriculum Laboratory also has a new kit that could be used, Marbleworks Deluxe Set (Oversize 371.337 Mar).
Search the library catalogue for these subjects: railroads
-- trains, castles
Booth, Philip. Crossing. 811.54 Boo
Crews, Donald. Freight Train. F Cre
Crews, Donald. Shortcut. F Cre.
Eastwood, Kay. Life in a castle. 728.81 Eas
Graham, Ian. Cars, bikes, trains, and other land machines.
Kellerhals-Stewart, Heather. My brother's train. F Kel
Kuklin, Susan. All aboard! A true train story. 385.52 Kuk
Macaulay, David. Castle. 623.1942 Mac
Mille, Claude. The castle. 728.81 Mil
Rex, Michael. My freight train. F Rex
Simon, Seymour. Seymour Simon's book of trains. 385 Sim
Turnbull, Stephanie. Trains. 625.2 Tur
Wise Brown, Margaret. Two little trains. F Bro
Give out the Expert Engineer's Certificates
Produced by: Bill Glaister, December 2004. Updated in January 2010.
students have now completed "the great building
things challenge," and achieved four levels of engineering
excellence. Award them their certificates!