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 »

Whenever Erik goes camping in Germany’s Black Forest, bad things happen: he gets stung by hornets or falls in the mud. Erik’s rival Matthias, who does everything perfectly, is coming on the next camping trip, and Erik dreads messing up in front of him. The trip takes a surprising turn when Matthias hurts his knee. Can Erik lead the charge and work with the other hikers to design a knee brace that will get Matthias out of the woods?

Download a PDF of our storybook illustrations.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Erik’s Unexpected Twist Storybook / Grade 5 / Boston, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

What types of reading response questions does Kathy ask to engage her students?

Kathy asks questions to help students draw inferences, share their prior knowledge, and make connections to their own lives.

  • Kathy prompts students to make inferences when she asks them how they think Erik felt when his mother scolded him about not wearing his knee brace. (3:09)
  • Kathy has students review their prior knowledge when she asks about the steps in the Engineering Design Process (EDP). (3:47)
  • When Kathy has students explore the range of movement of their elbows, she helps them connect information in the book to their own bodies and experiences. (4:18)

How do you see this lesson laying the foundation for the design challenge to come?

The storybook and the EiE handouts provide background knowledge that students need in order to solve the knee brace engineering challenge.

  • The story motivates students by introducing the design challenge in the context of an outdoor adventure. (2:20)
  • Lesson 1 handouts help students refresh their knowledge of bones and muscles and how they work together to create movement. (4:52)
  • The EDP handout helps students review and think about how characters in the book used the steps to solve the challenge. (6:14)


Designing Knee Braces / Grade 3 / Kittery, ME
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Reflection Questions

How does Kate create an environment of open discussion and communication?

Kate asks her students many questions, ranging from open-ended ones for her whole class to answer, to direct questions targeted at specific kids.

  • Kate helps out a group of kids grappling with the definition of biomedical engineer by pushing them in the right direction, instead of simply giving them the answer. (2:55)
  • Kate tells Makali to “piggyback” off another student’s response, creating an environment where the kids not only have to participate, but also listen to others. (3:43)
  • Kate has the students repeat the steps of the EDP out-loud, engaging them in a different way than just a question and answer teaching strategy. (5:36)

How does Kate introduce and reinforce the steps of the Engineering Design Process throughout Lesson 1?

Kate puts an emphasis on the EDP while reading the storybook. She also refers back to the story throughout the lesson to give the kids a context to think about the EDP.

  • Kate emphasizes the EDP throughout her reading of the storybook. (2:00–2:12)
  • Kate prompts students to think about how the EDP is used in the context of the storybook. (5:47–6:15)
  • Kate shows a real knee brace at the end of the lesson in order to help her students “imagine” their own knee brace designs. (7:02)

Students think like biomedical engineers as they analyze their foot arch heights and those of their classmates in order to make recommendations to a sneaker company.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Stepping into Biomedical Engineering / Grade 5 / Boston, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

Where do you see examples of this lesson serving to reinforce literacy skills?

Kathy integrates selective highlighting and letter writing into this lesson.

  • Because the lesson is introduced as a request from the Fast Feet Company, Kathy has the opportunity to familiarize students with the style and format of a written memo. (0:28)
  • When reading the memo from the Fast Feet Company, students are instructed to highlight information that is important and that stands out. (1:03)
  • At the end of the lesson, Kathy has students write up their findings in the form of a business letter. (8:19)

What does Kathy do to scaffold the process of analyzing the footprint data?

Kathy uses a step-wise approach to data analysis. Students start with simple observations of their own footprints, and eventually end up considering large sets of data.

  • The analysis starts when Kathy asks her students to record two things they notice about the shape of their own footprints. (4:44)
  • The next day, Kathy has students look at all three footprints in their group. She has each group put these footprints in order from highest to lowest arch. (5:26)
  • Next, students sort all 24 footprints into three categories: high, medium, and low arch. (6:08)
  • Finally, Kathy has students refine their analysis by ordering the footprints in each category from lowest to highest arch (6:49).


Designing Knee Braces / Grade 3 / Kittery, ME
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

How do you see Kate engaging students with hands-on activities?

Kate promotes the students to connect their engineering learning with real-life experiences of their own, all the while using hands-on activities and prompts to keep everyone interested.

  • Kate has Lilly walk and jog in front of the class for students to observe what parts of the body are used for walking/running. (0:53)
  • Kate has the students take off their shoes and feel the parts of their feet that she is reviewing to give them a better sense of the anatomical parts that they’re looking for. (3:00)
  • Kate has each student tape their footprint on the board, giving them a visual sense of where their arch ranks. (7:25)

How does Kate use Lesson 2 as a way to give the students a broader view of Biomedical Engineering?

Kate gives her students a context for their assignment, and returns to it often to help the kids think in terms of a biomedical engineer.

  • Kate starts off the lesson talking about how, “biomedical engineers don’t just work on knees and knee braces.” (0:31)
  • Kate reads the letter, addressing their team as the “arch height team”, giving the students a sense that their work is leading to something bigger than a usual classroom context. (2:14)
  • Kate tells her students to rank their arch heights in groups of four, giving her students time to compare/contrast their individual footprints. (6:50)
  • Kate tells her students that the arch height test that they’re doing is “real-life data analysis.” (8:18)

Students observe the range of motion of their knees and compare the movements to those of a model injured knee.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Brace Yourself / Grade 5 / Boston, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

How does introducing the model knee as part of Lesson 3 help prepare students for the design challenge?

Students are fascinated with the model leg, and giving them time to explore how it is made, how it moves, and how it is different from a real leg helps them better understand the requirements for their knee brace.

  • Measuring range of motion with the goniometer introduces students to the idea that a healthy knee cannot move in every direction, and that their brace should prevent unhealthy movement. (2:45)
  • Hands-on experience with the model knee in Lesson 3 gives students the background knowledge they need in order to effectively Imagine and Plan in the next lesson. (4:45)
  • Developing understanding of the size, weight, and structure of the model they will be using helps students think more deeply about the materials they might use for their knee braces. (8:20)

Why is it important to review the properties of the materials available and how they might be used?

Giving students time to learn about available materials and brainstorm ways they can be used as part of the Ask step of the Engineering Design Process helps them make informed choices when planning their designs.

  • Not all materials will be familiar to all students. When trying to identify the items in the materials bag, one student mentions that she “doesn’t know what this is called.” A peer reminds her that the material is called “felt.” (7:43)
  • Some students have less experience with the idea of manipulating materials to solve problems. Hearing other students’ ideas encourages all students to think creatively. (8:01)
  • Some materials are new to most students (Velcro), so Kathy wants to make sure that everyone understand its uses before they start designing. (8:12)


Designing Knee Braces / Grade 3 / Kittery, ME
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

What teaching methods does Kate use to introduce the range of motion of a healthy human knee?

Kate uses engaging kinesthetic teaching methods to introduce the range of motion of a knee.

  • Kate reviews examples of healthy joints by having students shake and bend their hands and fingers and twirl their wrists. (1:07)
  • Kate has her students swing their knees back and forth to demonstrate their range of mobility. (1:33)
  • Kate has a student come to the front of the class to demonstrate the movement of a healthy knee.  (3:39)


How does Kate encourage brainstorming throughout lesson 3?

Kate guides small and large group discussion where students brainstorm how they might use different materials in their knee brace design.

  • Kate gives her students a bag of materials to discuss in small groups how they can be used in the design challenge. (7:34–8:17)
  • Kate has her students share as a whole class how the properties of the materials they observed can be used in the design challenge. (8:18–9:57)


Students apply their knowledge of materials, the range of motion of a healthy knee, and biomedical engineering as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve a knee brace design.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing a Knee Brace / Grade 5 / Boston, MA
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

How does Kathy cover each step of the Engineering Design Process (EDP) while teaching this lesson?

Kathy uses EiE handouts, group discussions, and some of her own activities to help reinforce the EDP.

  • Kathy uses the EiE Ask handout to help students review what they learned about range of motion in a healthy knee. (0:52)
  • Before working on the Imagine and Plan sheets, Kathy has each student use a blank sheet of paper to make a freehand sketch of what their knee brace might look like. (4:49)
  • Groups spend time working together on the Imagine and Plan sheets (6:30), then fill out a list of the materials they will use. (4:06)
  • Each group creates a knee brace based on their Plan (7:08) and tests for range of motion with the goniometer. (8:00)
  • Kathy conducts a reflection discussion that focuses on the Improve step. (8:09)

What important engineering habits of mind does Kathy use the reflection portion of this lesson to reinforce?

During her reflection discussion, Kathy guides students to demonstrate abilities to use failure as a learning opportunity, make tradeoffs between criteria and constraints, and communicate effectively.

  • Students demonstrated their ability to use failure as a learning opportunity as they described multiple iterations of knee brace designs, making improvements based on how each one failed. (9:14)
  • One group struggles with tradeoffs as they try to determine the right amount of tape to use. Too much tape made the knee brace difficult to remove, too little tape made it less durable. (9:50)
  • Students use effective communication as they describe the changes they made and share the results of their testing. (10:29)


Designing Knee Braces / Grade 3 / Kittery, ME
Click here for a more in-depth look

Reflection Questions

When do you see students referencing worksheets to help them in their design process?

Students use a variety of worksheets provided with the Knee Brace unit to make evidence based decisions or to keep them on track.

  • A student group references their plan worksheet to see determine the ideal location when deciding on where to place felt for comfort. (2:18)
  • A team member shows another student where the Velcro goes on their design by looking back at the imagine worksheet. (3:36)
  • Kate has a student reference her materials sheet to see how many pieces or inches of cloth she needs for her design. (5:26)

Where does Kate facilitate group discussion among her students?

Kate uses both whole class and small group discussion to reach her students and help them convey ideas among their teammates and peers.

  • Kate encourages her students to test their usability criteria with their first knee brace design so they can learn from failure after they express disappointment. (6:42–6:53)
  • Kate has some of her student groups test in front of the whole class so that everyone gets a chance to see the success or failure of their classmate’s designs. (7:34–8:58)