Optional Teaching Supplies

Materials for this Unit

Many EiE lessons use materials that are commonly available at grocery, hardware, or craft stores. To obtain kit materials, either visit our EiE store to purchase a kit that includes materials for up to 30 students, or create your own kit based on the materials list printed in the teacher guide or the downloadable list below.

Each unit includes a letter to send home with student for materials donation for the unit.  Click here to download a copy of this letter in Spanish.

Additional Storybooks for Classroom Use

Storybooks introduce each unit with the tale of a child somewhere around the world who solves a problem through engineering. The books integrate literacy and social studies into the unit and illustrate for students the relevance of STEM subjects. 

Explore the Lessons

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

What is Technology? / Grade 4 / Worcester, MA

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Extension Lessons

What are Extension Lessons?

Extension Lessons use EiE activities as a springboard to more directly reinforce other curricular concepts.

View all Extension Lessons »

Leif and his cousin Dana live in Denmark. When Dana moves away, they keep in touch by email. Leif, who keeps pet fish in an aquarium, is excited to hear that Dana’s new house has a fish pond. But the fish seem to be sick. Leif realizes the fish may not be getting enough oxygen. Inspired by the wind turbines that are common in Denmark (and with the help of Leif’s mother, a mechanical engineer) the cousins design a windmill to pump air into the pond and save the fish.

Download a PDF of our storybooks illustrations.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Windmills Storybook / Grade 2 / Cincinnati, OH
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

Laura adapted some of the activities to better meet the needs of her particular students. Which parts of the lesson do you notice her modifying?

Laura adapted her presentation of the storybook and created a cut-and-paste version of the worksheet. 

  • Laura does not read directly from the storybook. Instead, she projects illustrations from the book on the screen as she retells a shortened version of the story from her notes. (0:15)
  • Laura provides written responses to the questions which students can cut apart and paste into the appropriate box on the Engineering Design Process worksheet. This strategy helps her students consider each of the important ideas on the sheet without being bogged down with writing mechanics. (10:22)

Laura pauses at various points in the story and poses questions to her students. What different types of questions do you see her asking?

Laura asks questions that help her assess prior knowledge, and check for student understanding about key points in the story.

  • Laura checks for understanding by asking her students to look carefully at the illustration of Leif at the harbor and identify items they see blowing in the wind. (1:59)
  • Laura does a quick assessment of prior knowledge when she says, "Put your hand on your head if you know what a windmill is." (10:22)
  • Laura asks her students a series of questions that help them recall important points in the story and review new vocabulary words, such as mechanical engineer, machines, and the steps of the Engineering Design Process. (6:30)
Windmills Storybook / Grade 2 / Framingham, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

How does Pat the set the stage for the reading of Leif Catches the Wind?

Pat reviews the prior experiences and knowledge that students have that will relate to things they’ll hear about in the story.

  • Pat asks if anyone has heard of Denmark and then locates the country on her wall map. (1:45)
  • Pat goes over what students have already learned about windmills and turbines, and has students identify the differences between the two. (2:13)
  • Pat reminds students that they, too, tried to catch the wind when they made parachutes and pinwheels. (3:54)


Where do you see Pat asking questions that get her students thinking specifically about engineering?

Pat asks students to think about the type of work mechanical engineers might do, and she points out how characters in the story use the Engineering Design Process.

  • Pat first introduces Leif Catches the Wind as a story about engineers and asks, "What are mechanical engineers?" (0:20)
  • Pat says, "Leif’s got a problem to solve. So, what process do you think he is going to follow?" Her students respond, "The Engineering Design Process." (8:59)
  • Pat asks, "Is it important, do you think, that Leif makes a plan before he build his windmill? Why?" Students share several ideas about why planning is important. (9:48)

Students think like mechanical engineers as they observe and analyze the moving parts of common machines.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Who are Mechanical Engineers? / Grade 2 / Framingham, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

Why do you think the lesson begins with a discussion about the characters in the storybook?

Since Lesson 2 is about what mechanical engineers do and how they think, Pat guides students to remember the mechanical engineers they met in the story in Lesson 1.

  • Pat first asks, "Who are some of the mechanical engineers in the story?" By starting with questions about characters in the story, Pat has gently encouraged students to think about what mechanical engineers do in a familiar context. (0:17)
  • After talking about the characters' jobs and activities some more, Pat finally asks, "What do you think mechanical engineers do?" Pat is encouraging students to use their knowledge of what happened in the story to construct and contextualize their ideas, not just recite a definition from memory. (1:03)
  • Later, when Pat introduces terms like efficiency and machines, she still couches those abstract terms in terms of people and the jobs they do. (1:50)


Based on Pat's conversation with her students, do you think they understand the terms "action" and "reaction?" What level of understanding is crucial for this lesson?

Pat consistently uses the terms "action" and "reaction," and students use the terms somewhat less consistently. Despite this, students' descriptions of what they're seeing show that they can engage with the key ideas of the lesson.

  • Pat asks her student where he "acts on" the machine to make it work. He responds by telling her what happens after you move the handle. Later, at 7:28, Pat again helps him identify the "action" (7:03). Although the student has not yet clearly distinguished the terms "action" and "reaction," he shows evidence of understanding how the mechanism works and can describe cause and effect.
  • Pat's conversation with a student about the mechanical pencil shows the same vague usage of terms, but he, too can clearly describe how the mechanism works (8:45). Both these students, though struggling with vocabulary, show that they have the ability to engage and grapple with the key ideas of this lesson.

Students predict, test, observe, and describe how sails made of different materials and shapes catch the wind.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Testing Sail Designs (1) / Grade 2 / Framingham, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

What strategies do you see Pat using to reinforce student understanding of the functions and properties of sails?

Pat asks students to describe what a sail does (its function). She summarizes students’ ideas for the whole class, and asks probing follow-up questions to push their thinking. She also asks students to make predictions, which gets them to share their opinions about which properties are important to making a good sail.

  • When a student explains her understanding of the purpose of a sail, Pat responds with a summary statement. (0:21)
  • When a student explains how she thinks the interaction between a sail and the wind works, Pat asks a question that guides students to the idea that wind acts as power or energy for the sail. (0:35)
  • Pat shows the class chart and keeps it posted throughout the lesson so students can refer back to it. (2:15)

Pat has students make predictions prior to making sails. What evidence do you see that this will help students make informed design decisions later on?

Making predictions guides students to form their own opinions about what might work well and what might not. During testing, students will hopefully be vested in learning whether their predictions were correct.

  • One student lists a few materials he thinks will work well, and adds “that’s all I’m going to use,” implying a direct link between his predictions and the sail he’ll create. (3:12)
Testing Sail Designs (2) / Grade 2 / Framingham, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

What types of questions does Pat ask at the testing station, particularly when sails don't work?

Pat asks questions that lead students to ideas they could apply when they are improving their sails. Rather than leaving the testing station feeling dejected, students leave with a plan for what they'll try next.

  • Pat asks, "What do you think you could do to make this sail catch the wind?" The student decides he needs to change the shape of the sail. (6:30)
  • Pat talks with all the students in line about the plastic bag sail and asks why it gets stuck. Other students point out that the sail is low and big. The sail designer decides to make her design smaller. (7:10)

What are the main ideas that Pat guides students to focus on during the Reflection portion of the lesson?

Pat guides students to share what materials and shapes worked well, and encourages students to use the same properties in their windmill blades.

  • A student says his design is made from paper. Pat guides him to share that it is actually made of index cards and he used that because it's stronger than copy paper. (10:35)
  • Pat points out that they need to think about all the information they gained today in order to make their blade designs. (11:05)
Testing Sail Designs (1) / Grade 2 / Cincinnati, OH
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

What strategies do you see Laura using to activate students' prior knowledge about wind?

Laura guides students to think about examples from the storybook, as well as their own experiences.

  • Laura begins by asking students to name things they remember seeing being blown around in the storybook Leif Catches the Wind. (0:15)
  • Laura asks whether students have seen sailboats in real life or in pictures, and then asks students to think about how sails can make a boat move. (1:25)
  • Laura guides students to think about the parachutes they designed in class, and which size parachutes worked well. (4:35)

What types of questions do you see Laura asking in order to guide students to share their ideas?

When students give an answer, Laura often asks follow up questions such as "What do you mean by that?" or "Can you tell me more?"

  • A student says stiffness means to be "still." Laura asks her to explain further and the student says she means that "it won't move". (2:50)
  • When a student suggests shape is important, Laura asks her to explain why. She says some shapes may catch wind better than others, which leads another student to share that she has heard triangles are the strongest shape. (3:38)
  • A student claims he doesn't know why he picked a material as a good choice. Laura questions him further and then he says he picked it because it is harder than some of the other materials. (9:15)
Testing Sail Designs (2) / Grade 2 / Cincinnati, OH
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

What types of questions does Laura ask at the testing station, particularly when sails don’t work?

Laura asks specific questions about what students expected to happen, and how what they’re seeing may be different from that. When students leave the testing station, she asks them which parts of their sail they will improve. 

  • Laura asks, “When you redesign this, what are you going to change about the sail?” The student says she needs the sail to be stiffer. (3:29)
  • Laura asks a student whose design is twisting, “What could you change to make the air go where you want?” She follows up with a question specifically about the coffee stirrer—“What about this piece?” (5:45)

How does Laura encourage positive student interactions when students are testing and designing?

Laura reinforces the idea that engineers work together by guiding students to help each other brainstorm improvement ideas, and encouraging students to incorporate ideas from other students’ designs. 

  • Laura encourages two students to discuss one of their designs to come up with improvement ideas. (8:15)
  • Laura asks one student if he can get any ideas from another student using similar materials. (9:21)
  • When the class is sharing findings after testing, Laura asks one student, “Did you get any advice from anybody?” The student shares how two classmates helped her plan out the improvement ideas, and Laura emphasizes that engineers usually work in teams. (11:05)

Students focus on the mechanical engineering problem of capturing wind energy to do work as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their own windmills.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing a Windmill / Grade 2 / Cincinnati, OH
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

What are some key supports you see Laura introducing at the beginning of this lesson in order to help students break down the challenge?

Laura introduces stepped goals, encourages students to remember what they learned from lesson 3, and encourages students to work together.

  • Laura introduces a stepped goal—to get the windmill to spin first, then to put weights in the cup. (1:30)
  • Laura encourages students to recall what they learned worked well when making sails. (2:10)
  • Laura reminds students that engineers work together. (3:00)

Some of Laura's students have difficulty correctly angling their blades on the first try. How does she guide them to think about improvements?

Laura uses strong and specific lines of questioning, guiding students to focus on and analyze specific aspects of their designs that might be improved.

  • Laura asks students to explain why they stuck blades in sideways instead of straight, guiding them to think critically about their decision. (6:30)
  • When one group's windmill spins and stops at a certain point, Laura asks questions guiding the girls to realize the blade is both smaller than the others and not angled. (7:00)
  • When a group has difficulty getting to the idea of the blade needing to be angled, Laura talks to them for quite some time about differences in blade position without "giving them the answer." (8:15)
  • Laura asks a group to think about which directions the blades need to be turned based on the direction the wind is coming from. (10:55)
Designing a Windmill (1) / Grade 2 / Framingham, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

What strategies does Pat use to guide her students to focus on the steps of the Engineering Design Process (EDP)?

Pat does a review of the steps of the EDP at the beginning of the lesson, reminding students of what they’ve already accomplished. She also uses the corresponding Lesson 4 worksheets for visual emphasis.

  • Pat does an in-depth review of the steps of the EDP during the introduction to the lesson. (0:01-1:20)
  • She also reviews the questions students answered as part of the Ask step. (1:20)
  • Pat holds up the EDP duplication master sheets that apply to each of the steps students will be using. (5:30)

What unique assessment opportunities do Pat’s interactions with small groups provide?

During small-group discussions, Pat is able to ask questions to help clarify her understanding of student thinking.

  • Pat guides student to draw exactly how the foil will be attached to the stick, and asks him to choose his best idea and explain why he feels that will be the best. (8:55)
  • Pat asks a student whether the foil will be flat or bent, and why that’s important. (10:30)
  • Pat asks two girls to explain how their design is going to work. They explain the changes they made based on previous testing. (2:40)
Designing a Windmill Part 2 / Grade 2 / Framingham, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

What types of questions does Pat ask at the testing station, particularly when blades don’t work?

At the testing station, Pat asks lots of questions guiding students to comment carefully on what they observe and why they think blades are not spinning.

  • Pat asks two girls why they think their windmill is not spinning. The girls decide that the current design doesn’t have a place to catch the wind—the wind just hits it. (3:15)
  • Pat guides another group to look at their blades and think about what might be wrong. They decide that the blades are too flimsy and they will use craft sticks instead of coffee stirrers. (4:10)

What are some of the key ideas you see Pat bring out in the reflection of the lesson?

As in the Lesson 3 reflection, Pat guides students to talk about the properties of the materials they tried that worked well. She asks probing questions about the materials they used and why they did or did not work.

  • A student says she’s going to use the same properties that worked well in her sail when she designs her next blades, since the blades they just made were too flexible. (7:50)
  • Pat guides students to discuss which shapes worked the best. Students mention that squares and cups catch a lot of wind. (9:00)