Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this lesson, students take part in a hands-on STEM building challenge. Students will follow a simple process, from planning to building a structure, and will then use a redesign phase to improve the structure. The students use STEM planners to work through the design challenge. To make the STEM challenge more interesting, students have limited materials to use in the build, stretching their design and construction skills.

We’ve taken elements of this lesson and adapted them for remote learning. You can find this activity here.

Learning intentions:

  • Student will understand elements of structural design
  • Students will work as part of a team
  • Student will develop a design plan
  • Student will use a limited amount of materials to make a structure.

21st century skills:

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Years 3 & 4 Design and Technologies:

  • Investigate how forces and the properties of materials affect the behaviour of a product or system (ACTDEK011)
  • Select and use materials, components, tools, equipment and techniques and use safe work practices to make designed solutions (ACTDEP016)
  • Evaluate design ideas, processes and solutions based on criteria for success developed with guidance and including care for the environment (ACTDEP017)
  • Plan a sequence of production steps when making designed solutions individually and collaboratively (ACTDEP018)

Syllabus outcomes: ST2-13MW

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Capability.

Cross-curriculum priority: Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia.

Relevant parts of Years 3 & 4 achievement standards: 

Students create design solutions for each of the prescribed technologies contexts. They explain needs or opportunities and evaluate ideas and design solutions against identified criteria for success, including environmental sustainability considerations. They develop and expand design ideas and communicate these using models and drawings including annotations and symbols. Students plan and sequence major steps in design and production. They identify appropriate technologies and techniques and demonstrate safe work practices when producing designed solutions.

Topic: STEM/STEAM, Creative Thinking Science.

Unit of work: STEM Challenges — Primary

Time required: 55 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium to low. Teachers will be required to lead and facilitate the STEM design challenge at the start of the lesson. As the session progresses the students take the lead and the teaching role extends to a collaborative facilitator to assist the students in the STEM build.

Resources required:

  • Student Worksheet (STEM Planner) – one copy between three or four students
  • Butcher’s paper and pencils/markers
  • Device capable of presenting images to the class
  • Variety of building materials (see Part B, Step 5)
  • Buildings of Wonder Presentation.

Related Professional Development: Introduction to Primary STEM.

Keywords: STEM, STEAM, challenge, build, design, collaborative task, teamwork, engineering, bridge, world, wonder, structure.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will…

  • … understand elements of structural design
  • … work as part of a team
  • … develop a design plan.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … share ideas with others
  • … use a limited amount of materials to make a structure
  • … troubleshoot design flaws and make adaptations.

Teacher content information: In this lesson, we focus on the design of buildings as the central STEM challenge. Ideas and innovations are everywhere and can be found in many different parts of the world. Using images of different building structures enables the students to quickly gather some informal design ideas.

The focus of the STEM build is to challenge students to come up with an idea, take risks and give the build a go. This can be challenging for students to begin with. Developing a safe and supportive classroom is vital to giving students the support that can help them to take risks.

Inclusive STEM classrooms are based on these precepts:

  • E
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Student Worksheet

STEM Planner - Build it up...

Your STEM challenge is to build a tower. Be inspired by the buildings that you have seen during the session. Look for design ideas and innovate to create new ideas.

PART 1: Planning for STEM success.

My STEM goal/s: What am I trying to do?





Materials/Equipment: What materials will I use?


Challenge building guidelines: What can I use? Be specific with measurements and materials. (e.g. five pieces of tape 10 cm long, 20 icy pole sticks and ten pegs).

PART 2: STEM challenge design and build.

CREATE: Draw and label your idea.










TEST: What did you see happening? Did the tower stand up? Did the tower wobble?


How did the design work?

Write one thing that worked well.

Write one thing that didn't work well.

Design IMPROVEMENTS: How can you make this better?

What are three changes you can make to improve the design?

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