Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Everyday objects can contain the most interesting STEM designs and ideas – whether simple household pegs, classroom staplers, or advanced technology such as the iPad. But what is really happening to make the items work? This STEM lesson is designed to inspire students to think about how things are made, how they work and the STEM inspiration behind them. The students use critical thinking skills to develop STEM-inspired questions as they consider each item of interest or wonder. They then create a mash-up idea, bringing two concepts together in a design challenge.

Learning intentions: 

  • Students consider everyday objects through a STEM lens
  • Students have an experience in design inspiration
  • Students use STEM concepts to create new inventions
  • Students engage with design processes
  • Students work in groups on a design challenge.

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)
  • Investigate the suitability of materials, systems, components, tools and equipment for a range of purposes (ACTDEK013)
  • Generate, develop and communicate design ideas and decisions using appropriate technical terms and graphical representation techniques (ACTDEP015)

Syllabus outcomes: ST2-13MW, ST2-5WT

General capabilities: Numeracy, Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Capabilities.

Relevant parts of Years 3 & 4 achievement standards: 

Students generate and record design ideas for an audience using technical terms and graphical and non-graphical representation techniques, including algorithms.

Students use agreed protocols when collaborating, creating and communicating ideas, information and solutions, face-to-face and online.

Topic: STEM/STEAM, Creative Thinking

Unit of work: STEM Challenges — Primary

Time required: 70 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium to High. Teachers and educators are to set the experience and guide the children during the STEM session. The role of the teacher switches to a co-facilitator assisting groups in the Mashable design phase. 

Resources required:

  • Student Worksheets – one copy per student
  • 2B pencils or coloured pencils
  • Blank paper
  • Butcher’s paper or whiteboard
  • Collection of everyday objects – see teacher preparation
  • Sticky notes
  • Think, Pair, Share Worksheet – one copy per student
  • Device and projector capable of presenting information to the class (optional).

Related Professional Development: Introduction to Primary STEM.

Keywords: STEM, STEAM, design challenge, mash-up, creativity, group work, ideas, collaboration, invention.

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…

  • … consider everyday objects through a STEM lens
  • … have an experience in design inspiration
  • … use STEM concepts to create new inventions
  • … engage with design processes.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • … name and recognise STEM concepts in objects
  • … develop creative ideas
  • … share ideas with others
  • … work collaboratively.

Teacher content information: Finding STEM in everyday objects is a great way to expand the critical thinking of students. It is a valuable way to see how our lives are impacted by the collective focus of STEM. Using a collection of everyday objects helps to create a shared experience with the students. Using familiar objects draws on their prior knowledge and draws their attention to how STEM may be part of the design and build.

In this lesson, we use a classroom stapler to highlight STEM design elements.

Object: Stapler

  • S - Science: What science is in action? Forces in the action
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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: STEM innovation is all about coming up with creative design ideas.

Inventors and innovators use other designs to help them create new ideas. In this lesson, you will be exploring everyday objects to help you come up with your own design ideas.

The STEM Mash-up Design Challenge

Your mission is to design a new object by combining two everyday items. This new invention is a ‘STEM mash-up’. You will need to select two different objects from the following list that will form the basis of your design. Then using your STEM thinking you will join them together in an innovative design to create a new, useful object.

Choose one object from column A and up to two objects from column B to use in your design challenge:

Column A Column B
Cork Household peg
Cup Spring
Pencil Whistle
Empty Bottle Whisk
Hairbrush Ruler
Shoe Empty Tin Can
Bucket Scissors
Rocking Chair Fork
Pram Brick

Draw your mash-up design here:

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