We Explore Building

Students investigate physcial properties and characteristics of a variety of building materials and structures. They create drawings, models, towers, and bridges, and share what they have learned during an Engineering Open House for their families.  

Bats at Home reinforces the engineering concepts through a story about a family that builds a comfortable home for bats. 

Lesson Plan Overview:
Flexible 10 lesson sequence: Activities can be integrated with regular building play.

Activity 1: Introduction to Building Structures

Children are introduced to We Explore Building. They build different types of structures using blocks made from a variety of materials (i.e., wood, foam, cardboard, plastic) and of different sizes, shapes, and weights. They are introduced to the idea of representing their structures through drawing. 

Home Connection: The Home Activity introduces families to the building exploration and invites them to build a structure with their children using cushions, pillows, sheets or blankets, and pieces of furniture. Families are also asked to begin collecting recyclables for building at home.

Activity 2: Investigating Building Materials

As they build with blocks, children investigate the properties of the materials that blocks are made from (e.g., hardness, flexibility, and roughness) as well as their sizes, shapes, and weights. They make inferences about how these properties influence the ways in which they are able to use the blocks in their structures. 

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites families to provide blocks or familiar everyday materials (e.g., paper cups, small boxes, cardboard rolls, empty cans) and engage children in a building activity at home. Children then draw their structures and talk with their family members about the materials they used to build them. 

Activity 3: We Are Engineers!

Children are introduced to the idea that building a structure means thinking about the properties of the building materials and placing and arranging the blocks to create balance. Children investigate balance using their own bodies and are introduced to a new building material—planks—to explore balance. They generate and share ideas for placing and arranging the planks to create balanced structures.

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites children to have a conversation with their family members about something they want to build. Then they draw a picture of it to take back to school.

Activity 4: Taking a Structures Walk

Children are introduced to the concepts of strength and stability using the familiar folktale of The Three Little Pigs. They take a “structures walk” to look for strong stable buildings in their community and figure out what makes them strong and stable. Back in the classroom, they revisit The Three Little Pigs and then draw plans for the houses they would build if a wolf was after them.

Home Connection: The Home Activity encourages families to have a conversation with their children about the buildings they saw on the structures walk. They are asked to go on a structures walk with their children around their own homes and to look at and talk about the buildings they live in.

Activity 5: Building Tall Towers

Children are engaged in an engineering challenge. Working in pairs or small groups, children choose one type of material (e.g., wood, foam, cardboard) and use it to build the tallest tower they can. Children draw and measure their towers and record the measurements. They identify which tower is tallest and make inferences about how well the building materials, the sizes and shapes of the blocks, and the building strategies they used work for “building tall.”  

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites families to help their children build towers using cans, cups, empty boxes, or other collected materials. Children then draw a picture of the family building a tower together.

Activity 6: Engineering Challenge: Making Our Towers Stronger

Based on the previous tower-building activity, children explore ways to make their tall towers stronger, taller, and more stable. Children reflect on the strategies they generated for building tall in Activity 5. Working in pairs or small groups, they build towers using and expanding on those strategies with a wider selection of materials. They test their towers with a fan and reflect on what designs worked best for building strong tall towers. 

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites children and their families to look for tall buildings while they are out and about in the neighborhood. They have a conversation about the tallest buildings they find. Children draw pictures of their families in front of the tallest buildings.

Activity 7: Creating Models of Favorite Structures 

Children are introduced to the idea of making models of structures during an online book-reading of Dreaming Up by Christy Hale. They make models of their favorite structures based on images and compare their models to the original structures. They think and talk about what was easy and more difficult about making the models.  

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites children to draw pictures of their favorite buildings. They have a conversation with family members about why these buildings are their favorites, and family members write down what they say. 

Activity 8: Engineering Challenge: Building Houses for Animals

Children address a second engineering challenge as they design and build houses that will meet the needs of a variety of toy animals. Children think and talk about features of houses and the animals’ different sizes, shapes, and space requirements. In pairs or small groups, they draw a plan for a house for an animal and build it. They reflect on the building problems they faced and how they solved them. They listen to and discuss the story Bats at Home by Stephen Krensky.

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites children to talk with their families about their own homes, including the materials they are made of and how they are made. They notice and talk about all the ways that their homes meet their needs. 

Activity 9: Engineering Challenge: Designing and Building Bridges

Children view images of different types of bridges and describe and compare the different designs. Using paper, cardboard, and other building materials, children design and build bridges. They then test the strength of their bridges using small cars, pennies, or other weights, and generate ideas about the materials and designs that contribute to making strong, stable bridges.

Home Connection: The Home Activity invites families to help their children create plans for making a structure at home and then make it together. 

Items to collect to support the exploration. Most are standard preschool materials.

Provided in Classroom Kit - Coming soon!

Cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper rolls

Foam unit floor blocks

Plastic and/or paper cups of different sizes

Foam table-top units

Plastic and/or paper plates of different sizes

Table-top wooden cubes 

Boxes of different shapes and sizes

Plastic waffle blocks

Pieces of cardboard, oaktag, or foamboard cut into different shapes

Planks (blocks that are all the same size/shape)

Sponges of different sizes

Masking Tape

Play dough

Plastic Hard Hats 

Clay

Portable Fan 

Craft sticks (small and large)

Small Toy Animals (Safe for children 3yrs+)

Straws

All 4 AWIM PreK Children's Books

Large paper

Downloadable Curriculum and Supporting Files

Drawing and writing materials

 

Art materials including scissors, glue, and masking tape

 

Clipboards for drawing outdoors or in the block area (may be teacher-made with heavy cardboard and elastic to hold paper in place)

 

Plastic or paper cups for stacking

 

Measuring tools: standard (ruler, measuring tape) and nonstandard (paper clips, unifix cubes)

 

Blocks and other objects that will help children build and represent structures (floor and table top sized)

 

Pennies for weight on bridges

 

 

The following books all have connections to We Explore Building activities:
 

BLOCKS/BUILDING WITH BLOCKS
When I Build with Blocks by Niki Alling
Block City by Robert Louis Stevenson 
Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins

CONSTRUCTION/BIG MACHINES
A Year at a Construction Site by Nicholas Harris
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
The Construction Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta 
Big Machines by Karen Wallace 

BUILDERS/BUILDING
Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emma Garcia
Building a House by Byron Barton
Roberto the Insect Architect by Nina Laden 

BUILDINGS/ARCHITECTURE
13 Buildings Children Should Know by Annette Roeder
Arches to Zigzags by Michael Crosbie
Architecture Animals by Michael Crosbie
Architecture Colors by Michael Crosbie 
Architecture Counts by Michael Crosbie
Architecture Shapes by Michael Crosbie 
Gargoyles, Girders, and Glass Houses by Bo Zaunders
Amazing Buildings by Kate Hayden (DK Eyewitness Books)
Places in My Community by Bobbie Kalman
Hello, New York City by David Walker
Dreaming Up by Christy Hale
A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino
Hello, New York City by David Walker
This Is New York by Miroslav Sasek

SKYSCRAPERS/TOWERS
Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson
Skyscraper by Susan Goodman 
I Fall Down by Vicki Cobb 
Dreaming Up by Christy Hale

ANIMAL HOMES
Animal Architects: Amazing Animals Who Build Their Homes by Julio Antonio Blasco and Daniel Nassar 
Animals at Home by David Locke
My Very First Book of Animal Homes by Eric Carle 
Bats at Home by Stephen Krensky

HOUSES/HOMES
Wonderful Houses Around the World by Yoshio Komatsu
Houses and Homes by Ann Morris
How a House Is Built by Gail Gibbons 
Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emma Garcia
Building a House by Byron Barton

THREE LITTLE PIGS STORIES
The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall (more complex text)
The Three Little Pigs by Paul Galdone (less complex text)
The Three Little Pigs’ Sledding Adventure by Stephen Krensky
The Three Little Cajun Pigs by Mike Artell 
The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell (in Spanish and English)

CREATIVITY/INSPIRATION
The Dot by Peter Reynolds
Roberto the Insect Architect by Nina Laden 

BRIDGES
Bridges Are to Cross by Philemon Sturges
Bridges by Carol Johmann and Elizabeth Rieth
13 Bridges Children Should Know by Brad Finger

THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF STORIES
The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Carol Ottolenghi
The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone
The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Stephen Carpenter

 

Digital Resources

Introduction

Create a Maker Space
Small objects tester

Science Notes for Teachers: Compression and Tension: How Bridges Work

Science Notes for Teachers: Compression and Tension: Structural Engineering Design: Five Things Jenga Can Teach Us About Structural Engineering

 

Activity 1

Extension Activities: Science and Engineering: Visiting a Construction Site:
Video: Excavator

Language and Literacy: Book Browsing: Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins
When I Build with Blocks by Niki Alling
Block City by Robert Louis Stevenson

Activity 2

 

Extension Activities: Science and Engineering: Visiting a Construction Site:
Video: Excavator

Connection Activities: Language/Literacy: Reading about The Three Little Pigs: The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall
The Three Little Pigs by Paul Galdone from Learning Tree T.V. (English)
The Three Little Pigs - Los 3 cerditos** by UkeleCanta (Spanish)
The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell 

Activity 3

Preparation
Video: Keva Planks Building Basics

Activity 4

Overview:
The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall
The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell 

Extension Activites: Science and Engineering: Building with The Three Little Pigs:
The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall
The Three Little Pigs by Paul Galdone from Learning Tree T.V. (English)
The Three Little Pigs - Los 3 cerditos** by UkeleCanta (Spanish)
The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell 

Extension Activities: Dramatic Play: Playing in Our Neighborhood: Here Are 31 Easy Ways a Cardboard Box Can Keep Your Kids Entertained

Connection Activities: Performing Arts
Singing Songs: The Construction Worker Song

Activity 5

Extension Activities: Science and Engineering:
Observing Other Towers:
Building Big: Skyscrapers

Activity 6

Extension Activities:
Science and Engineering: Learning about Gravity: I Fall Down by Vicki Cobb

Extension Activities:
Technology: Viewing Videos of Towers:
Video: 10 Tallest Buildings in the World

Connection Activities: Physical Health and Development: Singing “The Elevator Song”:
The Elevator Song: Storytime Song 

Connection Activities: Dramatic Play: Playing “Elevator”:
Here Are 31 Easy Ways a Cardboard Box Can Keep Your Kids Entertained

Activity 7

Overview:
Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale

Extension Activities: Language/Literacy: Book Browsing: The Dot by Peter Reynolds

Connection Activities: Language/Literacy: Book Browsing: Roberto the Insect Architect

Activity 8

Extension Activities: Science and Engineering: Building Homes for Other Animals:
How to Build Your Own Wooden Guinea Pig Cage
Transform a Simple Box into a Cat House
How to Make a Tree House for Cute Pet Rat

Extension Activities: Language/Literacy: Book Browsing:
Building a House by Byron Barton
How a House Is Built by Gail Gibbons
Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emma Garcia

Connection Activities:
Life Science: Learning about the Homes That Animals Build
PBS Nature

Connection Activities: Social Studies: Exploring People's Homes Around the World

Video: Girl Build Bamboo House in to Live, Women Living Off The Grid

Video: Revealing my dreamy TINY HOME Studio build

Connection Activities: Performing Arts: Singing about Tools
Song: Johnny Works with One Hammer
Lyrics: Johnny Works with One Hammer

Activity 9

Preparation:
History of Bridges 

Activity Step 3:
Online images of bridges 

Extension Activities: Technology: A Bridge Being Built
Bridge the Gap
What Makes Bridges So Strong? 
Building Bridges

Extension Activities: Language/Literacy: Reading about The Three Billy Goats Gruff:
Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone
The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Carol Ottolenghi
The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Stephen Carpenter 

Extension Activities:
Performing Arts: Singing about London Bridge

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