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 »

Kids in El Salvador love fútbol (soccer), and Juan Daniel and his friends can hardly wait for the neighborhood fútbol championship. On the day of the game, Juan Daniel discovers a frog near the dusty soccer fieldfar from its rainforest home. The frog brings good luck to the team, but unless its skin stays moist, it could die before it can be returned to the rain forest. With a little help from a visiting bioengineer, Juan Daniel creates a model membrane that saves his fútbol frog and leads his team to victory.

Download a PDF of our storybook illustrations.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Membranes Storybook / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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Reflection Questions

What literacy strategies do you see Marlene using to increase understanding of the story and participation in discussion?

Marlene posts key text so visual learners can follow along, and involves all students in discussion of questions about the storybook.

  • Marlene projects a copy of the story text on the screen so that her students can follow along as she reads aloud. (1:32)
  • Marlene uses the Turn and Talk strategy to get her students thinking about the conditions at Juan Daniel’s soccer field. This oral participation strategy keeps all students involved in the story and encourages them to think critically. (1:47)

What oral language strategies does Marlene use to help her students develop proficiency?

Marlene confirms what she hears students saying, sometimes changing a term to a more appropriate word or making a summary statement.

  • Marlene repeats her student’s use of the word shadow once, but then replaces it with the more appropriate term shade, helping her students grasp the subtle distinction. (2:41)
  • After one student struggles for words to describe the frog’s skin, Marlene succinctly summarizes the student’s ideas by saying, "Yes. It was dry. It felt like paper." (4:40)
Membranes Storybook / Grade 4 / Fall River, MA
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Reflection Questions

How does Jean take advantage of the fact that her students each have their own copy of the storybook?

Jean's students make good use of the storybook, referring back to the text for evidence and referencing it as they answer questions about the story.

  • Jean's students attentively read along in their own books as she reads aloud. (5:04)
  • Students refer back to the book to check their ideas as they complete the "What is a Membrane?" handout. (7:12)
  • One student refers back to the book in his hands to help him remember the name of the Engineering Design Process. (12:00)
  • Students look for evidence in the text that support their ideas about how Juan Daniel uses the EDP. (13:12)


Jean stops reading at different points in the story and poses questions to her students. What different types of questions do you see her asking?

Jean asks questions that help to recall prior knowledge, encourage them to make predictions, or push students to key ideas that will come up later on in the unit.

  • Jean asks for predictions when holds up the book cover and says, "Look at the title. What do you think it's about?" (3:30)
  • Jean is eliciting prior knowledge when she asks, "Have you ever seen the skin of a frog? What does it look like?" (4:25)
  • Jean prompts her students evaluate ideas when she asks "Do you think it's important for them to test different materials? Why?" (10:50)

Students think like bioengineers as they match natural objects with technologies that have similar functions.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Biology Meets Technology / Grade 4 / Fall River, MA
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Reflection Questions

Jean refers back to the story of Juan Daniel many times throughout this lesson. How do these references help students make sense of the activity they are doing today?

The story provides important background context that helps students build a scaffold for the things they’re doing in the lesson. 

  • As Jean introduces the idea that bioengineers are inspired by nature, she asks specific questions about the items in nature that inspired Juan Daniel’s model membrane. (1:06)
  • When discussing how waxy leaves might have inspired engineers to design raincoats, Jean reviews the fact that water was dripping off the leaves that Juan Daniel saw in the rainforest. (9:01 and 10:12)

What gaps in student background knowledge do you see? What are some ways that these gaps are filled in during the activity?

Some of the objects on the cards are unfamiliar to students. In some cases other students help to fill in knowledge gaps, and in other cases the teacher helps to explain the objects. 

  • One student mentions that he has never seen a hand pollinator or waxy leaves. He then reads the information on the card to help him. (7:33)
  • One girl says that flying squirrels don’t fly, they glide. She serves a “student expert” that helps her group. (7:55)
  • No one in the group knows what a burr is. In this case, the student teacher steps in and provides a definition. (9:22)
Biology Meets Technology / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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Reflection Questions

What evidence do you see that Marlene's students are developing their abilities to make connections based on function?

Although the idea of matching items by function is difficult for some of her students at first, Marlene is able to deepen their understanding by visiting the students as they work in small groups, asking questions, and sharing examples. 

  • One student connects the rake with the waxy leaves because you use a rake to gather leaves. Marilyn helps students realize that the function of the rake is more similar to the paw. (4:20)
  • When Marlene asks one group why they have connected the fish and boat, one student replies that it is because "you catch fish from a boat", which indicates some confusion about matching cards based on function. (6:06)
  • Students are clearly using function to make matches when they declare, "This (burr) sticks to people and this (Velcro) sticks." (7:08)
  • Students accurately fill out the class chart of matches based on function. (9:04)

What evidence do you see that Marlene's students are still grappling with the distinction between natural objects and technologies?

The early matches that some students make indicate confusion between technologies and natural objects, but student discussion prompts further understanding. 

  • Students make a match that includes two technologies. One student recognizes this and they put the cards back. (3:05)
  • Marlene interacts with a group that has matched two technologies together, but one student identifies them both as natural items. (5:20)
  • A student points to the hand pollinator card saying, "That's not a technology, that's natural." Her classmate disagrees and she changes her mind. (6:48)
  • One student lists the fish as a technology and the boat as a natural object. Marlene takes this opportunity to reinforce the distinction. (9:43)


Students explore properties of natural membranes and test the performance of several model membrane materials.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Exploring Membranes (1) / Grade 4 / Fall River, MA
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Reflection Questions

In what ways do you see Jean relating the properties of membranes to students' prior knowledge?

Jean guides students to think about what they learned in the storybook, and discusses membranes students are familiar with in their own bodies. 

  • Jean asks if students remember what Juan Daniel learned about membranes. A student reminds his classmates that the membrane let air and water in, but kept dirt and harmful things out. (0:56)
  • After talking about how all living things have basic needs, Jean asks students to make some guesses about how their stomach membrane might help them meet basic needs. (1:41)
  • Jean tells students that today they're going to look at raisins and think about the outside of the raisins as a membrane "just like the frog skin or our stomach lining." Later, she links the tiny holes in membranes to the pores in our skin. (2:06 and 7:37)

At first, there is a high level of disagreement in the class about whether sand passed through the raisin membrane. How do you see Jean addressing this discord?

Jean ends up giving students time to conduct a second investigation to double check their results. 

  • Jean suggests students might want to do another experiment and wash the raisins very carefully before they cut into them. (12:28)
  • Some students do think they see sand inside the raisins. Abby's group shares that they do not think the sand would have gone through, since the sand wouldn't meet a basic need of the raisin. (10:42)
  • The next day Jean's class did an additional experiment, washing the sand off of the raisins and then cutting into them. More students were able to see that the sand did not pass through the membranes. (16:01)
Exploring Membranes (2) / Grade 4 / Fall River, MA
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Reflection Questions

Groups get very different results when testing some of the materials, particularly the various aluminum foils. How do you see Jean address these discrepant results?

Jean has groups with different results compare the way they set up their materials.

  • Jean has the class compare how two groups placed their foil in the testing container, guiding them to the idea that this may have an effect on the results. (7:15)
  • After testing the foil with one hole, a group reports collecting much more water than most other groups. Jean asks them to comment on this and students suggest they may have made their hole larger than some of the other groups. (9:45)
  • When conducting the wrap-up for the experiment, Jean guides students to refer back to their data in order to comment on how well the aluminum foil with one hole might work. She again reminds them that the results depend on how you make the hole. (13:15)

How does Jean create a foundation for Lesson 4 at the end of this lesson?

At the end of the lesson Jean has groups spend some time thinking about which materials they think might work best for the model membrane designs.

  • Jean refers students the Engineering Design Process poster, saying they’re about to begin the Imagine step, and has them comment on the value of the Ask step. (17:00)
Exploring Membranes (1) / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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Reflection Questions

What evidence do you see that Marlene's students are developing an understanding of the properties of membranes through their explorations?

Marlene's students make observations and comparisons related to what they see, and create well-supported explanations for what they have noticed. 

  • A student comments that it looks like raisin number 3 is trying to grow (possibly referring to the fact that the water is plumping up the raisin). (5:15)
  • When asked what he noticed about raisin number 4 in comparison to the others, a student points out that it was still dark and a bit hard. Another student adds that the raisin was small, like raisin number 1. (11:30)
  • When thinking about what would happen if raisin number 4 was left in water for a longer period of time, students suggest the raisin would be bigger, hinting at the idea of membranes controlling rate of flow. (12:40 and 13:15)
  • A student suggests the dirt and sand might not be able to move through the membrane because they're too big and the water and air particles can move through the membrane because they are smaller. (15:25)

Several times during the reflection portion of this lesson, Marlene uses a Turn and Talk strategy and has students discuss a question in their small groups. What evidence do you see that this strategy helps push students' thinking?

Turn and Talk allows students to share new ideas and draw conclusions in a low-stakes setting before presenting ideas to the class. 

  • Marlene asks students to predict what would happen if they left raisin 4 in the water for the same amount of time as raisins 2 and 3. Students use what they've observed to form an explanation. (12:10)
  • Marlene has students talk in their groups about how the water got into the raisins when there were no holes that they were able to see. This requires students to think critically and create an explanation based on what they have observed. (14:20)
Exploring Membranes (2) / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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Reflection Questions

What strategies do you see Marlene using when she introduces new terms?

When possible, Marlene tries to make connections between new terms and objects or events students may be familiar with from their own lives. 

  • Marlene shows students the materials they'll be testing and relates some materials to things they might be familiar with—saying cheesecloth looks like gauze you might get at the nurse's office. (2:27)
  • Marlene again makes a connection to gauze, suggesting they might know it from the dentist's office and that Ms. Ortiz used it for Halloween when she was dressed as a mummy. (10:50)

How does Marlene help students summarize information they gathered so they are prepared to use this information during the design challenge?

Marlene first reminds students of the goal of their design challenge, and then gives students time to talk as a class and in small groups about the materials they think would be best to use in their designs. She then has them mark these materials on their worksheet to help them keep track of ideas. 

  • During the group share out, she reminds students of their goal and asks kids to comment on the best and worst materials. (14:30)
  • At the end of the lesson, Marlene has students star the materials they think would be best for their design, preparing them to begin the Imagine step in Lesson 4. (16:00)

Students focus on the bioengineering problem of meeting the basic needs of an organism as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their own model membrane.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing a Model Membrane (1) / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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Reflection Questions

How do you see Marlene helping her students focus on the steps of the Engineering Design Process (EDP) as they move through the lesson?

Marlene uses posters (visuals) of the steps of the Engineering Design Process to reinforce the steps students are using. She also has students describe what happens during some of the steps. 

  • Marlene hangs up the poster that relates to each step of the EDP as students move on to that step. (0:35, 7:00)
  • Marlene asks students to describe what they do during the Imagine step. (0:40)
  • When she introduces the Plan step of the EDP, Marlene has students refer to the Plan duplication master. (7:00)

What strategies do you see Marlene using to encourage her students to work as a team?

By allocating time for group discussion, Marlene makes it clear that she expects students to work in teams. She gives them time to share and talk through their ideas, and gives positive feedback to teamwork. 

  • Marlene tells students that after they brainstorm individually, their goal is to share as a group to combine ideas. (1:31)
  • Marlene explains that their goal is to not just use their design, but to mix ideas to create the best design possible. (4:00)
  • Marlene gives groups designated time to share the designs they imagined and think about ways they can combine ideas. (4:20)
  • While sharing thoughts on their designs in a group, one student says, "It works because we put all of our designs together to make one." (10:00)
Designing a Model Membrane (2) / Grade 5 / Jersey City, NJ
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Reflection Questions

How does Marlene guide students to reflect on the steps of the EDP that they've used?

During the Reflection portion of the lesson, Marlene has students share ideas about how they used the steps of the EDP, first within small groups and then with the class. 

  • Marlene has students talk to those in their groups about which EDP steps they found most useful. (6:10)
  • Marlene gives students time to discuss the steps of the EDP and finally has all groups share with the whole class. (7:08)

What strategies does Marlene use to encourage students to fully explain their ideas?

Marlene often follows up student questions with "Why?" This encourages students to explain their reasoning.

  • Marlene reminds students she wants them to explain why they felt their design worked well or did not work well. As one of the groups begins to share out, Marlene follows up on many of the students' comments and descriptions with "why?" (2:30)
Designing a Model Membrane (1) / Grade 4 / Fall River, MA
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Reflection Questions

What unique opportunities for assessment do you see in Jean's one on one discussions with students?

Jean's discussions with smaller groups allow her to better understand the thinking behind decisions made by the group. 

  • Jean is able to ask students to describe their reasoning for incorporating certain materials into their designs, encouraging students to think deeply about their choices. (9:21)
  • When talking with one group, Jean asks a group to explain their reasoning behind choosing a sponge as a material, and also asks whether all students agreed with that decision, allowing her to monitor the level of collaboration in the group. (11:31)

What evidence do you see that students are using the data they gathered during earlier lessons?

Throughout the planning process, students look back in their science notebooks to reference data they recorded during Lesson 3. 

  • Jean asks a student what he is looking for and he explains he's going back in his notebook to see which materials might be better—showing her that he's using what he learned previously and applying it to the designs he's imagining. (5:20)
  • During a group discussion, one student asks another group member if he remembers what they found when they tested the aluminum foil with one hole. (9:11)
  • A student suggests using five coffee filters, saying "it fell really slowly, remember?" (11:11)
  • We see a girl flipping back in her notebook to look at the data she recorded earlier. (12:11)
Designing a Model Membrane (2) / Grade 4 / Fall River, MA
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Reflection Questions

How does Jean handle group discussions about their first designs?

Because Jean’s students are experienced engineers, she’s able to let them lead much of the discussion. 

  • After one group shares their ideas on the sponge, Jean asks other groups to weigh in on their results from the sponge. The kids become the expert consultants for each other’s groups. We see one student suggesting maybe it’s the way they placed the sponge that led to their results (not the sponge material itself). (3:50)
  • Julia has a brainstorm based on seeing other group’s designs and realizes the other successful groups have foil in common, so that might be a good idea. (4:30)
  • Towards the end of the student-driven discussion, Jean jokingly says she doesn’t know if she helped them, but reinforces that it’s their job and their choice to draw their own conclusions from what they’ve observed. (5:20)

What strategies do you see Jean using to guide students to use their data from Lesson 3?

During one on one group discussions, Jean is able to ask pointed questions to guide students to question some of their earlier thinking. 

  • When talking with one group that suggests they might use the foil with no holes, Jean asks them to think about whether the foil with no holes would let anything through. (6:30)
  • One group with a successful first design doesn’t want to improve. She encourages them to push further, noting that whatever they try next will give them more information, even if it doesn’t work. (8:00)
  • When talking with a group thinking of creating a hole in the felt, Jean guides students to look at the results from Lesson 3 to figure out whether that’s necessary. (10:30)