Structures

This list consists of lesson plans, activities and ideas to support the teaching of science through the topic of Structures. It contains ideas for how to link science to the topic, tips on using the resources, suggestions for further use and background subject knowledge to support teachers in delivering the science objectives through this topic. Resources support the teaching of forces and properties and changes of materials.

Visit the primary resources for cross curricular topics webpage to access all resource lists:
https://www.stem.org.uk/cross-curricular-topics-resources

 

Links and Resources

Aircraft Structures

These activities provide lots of opportunities for children to investigate forces and the properties of materials and how they can use this knowledge to design and make various structures. Projects can be designed around planes, parachutes or propellers.  Activity 2 on Airframe design  focusses on the uses of materials for particular purposes and is a great opportunity for children to apply science in the context of D & T. Using the science learnt in the lesson will enable children to design and make their own glider.  

Activity 4 involves investigating parachutes, which is a great way for children to learn about air resistance.  The inclusion of a video clip in with this resource is particularly helpful as children need to see that a 'good' parachute should fall slowly rather than it being about who make the fastest parachute!   This activity could also form the basis for a cross curricular DT unit with children being asked to design and make a parachute that would safely land an egg for example.  

publication year
2010 to 2019

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Spaghetti Towers

Linked to DT, Spaghetti Towers is a fun challenge which does exactly what it says on the tin, requiring children to build a tower made of spaghetti.  This would be an excellent activity to do at the start or the end of teaching 'Properties and Changes of Materials'.  

This activity could be extended by asking children to suggest other foodstuffs which could be used to create structures.  This could be set in the context of an end-of-topic party for which all the dishes need to resemble structures.  

publication year
2010 to 2019

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Primary Design and Technology Introductory Project - The Puff Buggy

Having learnt about air resistance through parachutes, children could design and make a buggy structure that is powered by a puff of air.  Children would need to know what it means to make an object more streamlined - they are likely to have covered this when learning about water resistance.  The opportunities for covering 'Working Scientifically' objectives in this activity are infinite, and children may come up with their own ideas for investigating how fast or how far their buggies will go. One idea is see how the   the size of puff affects how far a buggy will travel.

 

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Welding with Chocolate

This is an engaging - and tasty - way to investigate Properties and Changes of Materials, as well as giving children an opportunity to have a go at engineering. One of the huge advantages of this activity is that children can see the relevance of the work that they are doing; they can see the uses and implications of the science that they are learning about.  I would use this to investigate reversible and irreversible changes, perhaps even over-heating some chocolate so that children can see what an irreversible change looks like.  I would also use this activity to focus on the uses of particular materials, giving children the opportunity to use secondary sources to explore what materials are used for bridge building and welding in real life.  

publication year
2010 to 2019

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A Fine Balance: Building a Hanging Sculpture

This activity is a project in itself and links art and design technology, whilst applying knowledge of forces and materials. The main task is to design and make a hanging structure for a school assembly hall, which is introduced by a story.  Have children think about the design of their structure and the materials they might use to create it, this will be in regard to the purpose of the structure and where it will be in the school. Having children build and test sculptures in small groups, will let them see how engineers work as teams nad also show them how creativity is an important part of the design and make process.

publication year
2010 to 2019

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Vertically Challenged

This pack provides lots of activities  which help show children the key ideas and concepts used in designing and constructing buildings such as: how levers and pulleys work, the properties of materials and the forces involved in different structures. Activity 10 gets children to model different parts of  a building and feel for themselves the forces that architects nad engineers have to deal with when creating structures. Children act out columns, cantilevers and arches and think about the forces that they are feeling. They could then model other structures they come up with themselves like, a tunnel, dome and different kinds of bridges. Acting out the forces could then help support them in creating some of the structures using different materials.

publication year
2010 to 2019

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Bridge Building

Challenge children to build a bridge 50cm wide to support the weight of a food tin. Can they do this using only drinking straws, tape and string? Get them to investigate different shapes to see which are better at supporting a tin. They can use what they have found out to design and create their bridges and test them out.

This video provides some great ideas for running a similar activity with a class of children. It follows a STEM Ambassador working with a Year Five class on a bridge building activity.

publication year
2010 to 2019

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Bridges and Structures

This activity is also a good one to get children thinking about simple structures. Get children working in small groups to create structures from a single sheet of A4 paper. Following on from this they are challenged to create the tallest free-standing tower and the longest possible span between two end supports. Ask children to test their bridges for strength and say which designs work and why.

 

 

publication year
2010 to 2019

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