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The Two Best Design Challenges to Start the Year

By December 11th, 2023No Comments

No matter how many times you’ve started a new school year, it can still be daunting.  And, what you do with your students those first few days will set the tone for your entire year. (No pressure.)  Here are two of the best engineering design challenges to help you build a great rapport with your students from day one! (And psst, here are some other ideas for That First Day too.)


The Three Little Pigs

First, who doesn’t love the Three Little Pigs?  For younger students, it’s a great opportunity for a read-aloud.  For older students, a round-robin retelling can be fun.  No matter what your preference, it’s a good idea to review the story.  In this design challenge, students work in teams to design and build a house for one of the three pigs.  This design challenge is one of my favorites for the start of the year because I like to compare the pig who hastily built his house with the pig who carefully constructed his house by starting with a solid foundation and thoughtfully building it. It’s also a great parallel to talk about the quality of work that students may turn in…and how better quality of work will serve them better in the long run.  Get the Three Little Pigs design challenge here or buy it as part of the Teaching STEM through Fairy Tales bundle pack.

Save Fred

Save Fred is my go-to teambuilding challenge for a new group of kids.  It teaches them the importance of listening to each other and working as a team to accomplish a shared goal.  In this scenario, our friend Fred, the loveable gummy worm, has capsized his boat and needs to be rescued.  The whole saga is told here so that you can either read it to your kids or summarize it for them.  Kids only design a workable solution (not build anything) in this challenge, but it is such a relatable learning opportunity for kids.  I’m also a huge fan of STEM Notebooks, so for me, this is one of the first couple of entries in the kids’ notebooks.  Get the Save Fred challenge here or buy it as part of the STEM Skills Challenge bundle pack.

Get The Three Little Pigs and Save Fred to Start Your STEM Year!

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  • Best Picture Books for Teaching STEM- Bundle Pack

  • STEM Formative Assessments- Bundle Pack

  • STEM Skills Challenge- Save Fred

  • Teaching STEM through Fairy Tales- The Three Little Pigs