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

Videos
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 »

Fadil’s older sister Ikhlas is getting married! Fadil and his little sister Bashira want to give Ikhlas a special present—a plant from their garden, to remind her of her family when she moves to her new home. Before the wedding, Fadil and Bashira make a beautiful package for their plant—but later, when they check on the plant, it has wilted. With some help from their Aunt Rasha, a packaging engineer, Fadil and Bashira begin to think like engineers and solve their packaging problem.

Download a PDF of our storybook illustrations.
 

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Plant Package Storybook / Grade 3 / Louisville, KY
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EiE - Thinking Inside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L1

Reflection Questions

Lawrence has students bring their packet handouts to the reading circle. How do you see him using the packet handouts to structure the activity?

Lawrence integrates writing into his reading process, maintaining an open atmosphere of group work and idea sharing for both.

  • Lawrence asks for predictions when he shows the book cover and says, “What do you think the story will be about?” (2:07)
  • Lawrence helps students make personal connections when he asks, “Have you ever given a gift to someone?” (2:31)
  • Lawrence encourages explanation when he asks, “Why do you think Bashira might not want Iklas to get married?” (3:02)
  • Lawrence prompts students to evaluate ideas when he asks, “Do you think it’s a good idea to pull up an amaryllis and plant it in a pot? Why or why not?” (3:29)

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

Lawrence asks students to make predictions about the story, as well as to explain and evaluate their perceptions of characters.

  • After watching all the parachutes fall, two students were able to see how the length of the suspension lines affects the canopy’s ability to open fully. (9:08 and 9:26)
  • Another student uses gestures and words to describe how “more air will get trapped” in a larger canopy and cause it to drop “very slow.” (9:32)
Plant Package Storybook / Grade 4 / Winthrop, MA
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EiE - Thinking Inside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L1

Reflection Questions

How does Rosemary use the overhead projector as a communication tool?

Rosemary uses the overhead to share illustrations, provide opportunities for reading along, and to make group work visible to the whole class. 

  • At the beginning of the lesson, the cover of the book displayed on the white board as Rosemary introduces the lesson. (0:20)
  • Because Rosemary has photocopied each page from the book and displays them on the overhead, her students can see illustrations and read along with her. (2:30)
  • By filling out one large package worksheet on the board, Rosemary is providing opportunities for groups to contribute ideas and to assess their answers. (7:00) 

What kinds of questions does Rosemary ask to help get her students thinking deeply about parts of the perfume package?

Using the worksheet as a guide, Rosemary asks questions about how the perfume is packaged, the function of the package, and why that function is important. 

  • Rosemary starts by asking how the perfume was packaged, and asks what the two parts were (the bottle and the box). (7:49)
  • She then asks what the two parts are made of and what their functions are (bottle holds the perfume, box protects the bottle). (8:20)
  • Finally, Rosemary asks what other function the cardboard box serves (decorative). (9:03)

Students think like packaging engineers as they examine and identify the functions of a wide variety of packages.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Who are Packaging Engineers? / Grade 4 / Winthrop, MA
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EiE - Thinking Outside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L2

Reflection Questions

How does Lesson 2 help deepen Rosemary’s students’ appreciation of package engineers?

All Rosemary’s students are familiar with packaging, but Lesson 2 helps them look at a common item through the eyes of an engineer. 

  • When comparing and contrasting water bottles, students identify and consider the importance of each package function (communicate, contain, dispense). (3:06)
  • During group discussions, students consider the reasons for various package features such as ribbed surfaces or easy open tabs. (6:58)
  • Students practice their own package design skills when they make suggestions for how to improve the package they examined. (10:29)

 

What evidence do you see that Rosemary spent time preparing for the lesson?

Rosemary brought in packages from home and prepared package function vocabulary cards. 

  • Based on information in the in the EiE guide, Rosemary chose an interesting set of packages that allowed students to analyze the functions of a package in terms of the product and the intended consumer. (5:13)
  • By cutting up pages {2-1} through {2-4} of the teacher’s guide, Rosemary created vocabulary cards that showed the seven package functions and their definitions. She mounted these cards on her white board with magnets. (1:15)    
Who are Packaging Engineers? / Grade 3 / Louisville, KY
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EiE - Thinking Inside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L2

Reflection Questions

Erin modifies the lesson by including a discussion of different types of cereal boxes. How does this cereal box conversation reinforce the basic ideas of the unit?

Erin hopes the cereal boxes will introduce the idea of packaging to her students via a product that is familiar and kid friendly.

  • The conversation gives Erin another opportunity to introduce the term "consumer” and have her students think about the differences between adult and child consumers. (1:51)
  • Erin is able to focus on the differences between the three packages because they are all for the same product. (1:26)
  • The entire conversation reinforces the ideas presented in the water bottle discussion that follows, but introduces those ideas through a very kid-friendly product. (1:13–2:04)

How does this lesson prepare students for the next one?

Erin lays the foundation for future lessons by focusing on the functions of packages and the properties of materials. She also sets the tone for creative problem solving.

  • By considering actual examples, students reinforce their understanding of the functions of packaging. (5:46)
  • The lesson asks students to focus on the materials used for each package, which will become important when they design plant packages. (7:48)
  • The lesson sets the tone for engineering by encouraging creative thinking and novel design ideas. (9:07)

Students determine the needs of the plant and the consumer for which they are designing their plant packages.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Evaluating Needs and Creating Criteria (1) / Grade 3 / Louisville, KY
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EiE - Thinking Inside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L3 P1

Reflection Questions

Erin mentions that her students had completed the FOSS science unit on plants. Where do you see kids demonstrating their science knowledge of plants before the package challenge begins?

Erin’s students understand the basic needs and parts of plants. They also possess inquiry skills that serve them in this lesson.

  • Erin’s students can name the basic needs of plants. (1:59)
  • They know the functions of roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. (3:30)
  • Students demonstrate their science inquiry skills as they work in groups to observe and record the characteristics of a healthy plant. (4:49)

What do you notice Erin doing to make sure all of her students have the contextual background information necessary to understand the facts she is trying to convey?

To help students visualize what she is talking about, Erin uses pictures and real objects as props during her lesson.

  • Erin allows time for hands-on exploration of the specific plant (pansies) that they will package. (2:26)
  • To make sure all her students understand what she means by “unhealthy plant,” Erin shows them all a dried-up plant they are encouraged to observe, and even smell. (7:24)
  • Erin also projects close-up photographs of the unhealthy flower and stem so her students can compare them to those of the healthy plant. (7:47)
  • To demonstrate the abstract idea of a plant package being able to “communicate,” Erin holds up the information card that came with the pansies. (10:28)
Evaluating Needs and Creating Criteria (2) / Grade 3 / Louisville, KY
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EiE - Thinking Inside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L3 P2

Reflection Questions

Erin mentions in her interview that she always bases her teaching on “what she is getting from the kids”. Where do you see her accommodating and acknowledging the novel ideas of kids in her class?

Erin is non-judgmental in her interactions with students, and rarely corrects them. Instead, she listens attentively and meets children where they are.

  • When her students say that they could not fit a plant into the soda bottle, Erin disagrees. When they add that they would “have to cut it” she acknowledges their solution by responding, “Okay. Fair enough.” (3:00)
  • When Erin asks if the bottle will protect the plant, some students say no because the plant might flop around if you dropped it. Erin asks for ideas about how to secure the plant and then adapts her question. "If we could secure the plant, would the bottle protect it?” (4:25)

What strategies do you notice Erin using to facilitate smooth handling of materials?

Erin has put time into preparing materials and establishing norms for how materials should be handled.

  • Erin has placed all the materials available for each group in a plastic bin for organization and easy distribution. (1:08)
  • To keep students from grabbing materials, Erin has designated a ‘team captain’ who is responsible for taking items in and out of the bin. (6:08)
Evaluating Needs and Creating Criteria (1) / Grade 4 / Winthrop, MA
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EiE - Thinking Inside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L3.1

Reflection Questions

How does Lesson 3 help students to bridge their knowledge of science with the goals of engineering?

Lesson 3 provides an integrated STEM lesson, drawing on knowledge in science and math.

  • While creating the side-by-side list of plant needs and consumer needs, students are introduced to the competing goals or trade-offs that drive technological design. (1:00)
  • By quantifying their observations of plant health into levels, students are introduced to the evaluation component of engineering. (3:52)
  • The introduction of numbers to describe plant health encourages students to compare solutions mathematically. (5:03)
Evaluating Needs and Creating Criteria (2) / Grade 4 / Winthrop, MA
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EiE - Thinking Inside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L 3.2

Reflection Questions

How does Rosemary reinforce the distinction the between the properties of materials and their function? Why is this important?

For students to think like engineers, they must be able to evaluate materials in terms of how well they serve a function. Practice with these terms and the understanding the difference between them will increase understanding of the engineering process.

  • Rosemary explicitly uses the term "property" and distinguishes it from function in her introduction. (1:15)
  • She describes a property as a characteristic, and mentions what a material looks like, what it is made of, and what color it is. (1:20)
  • Rosemary is pushing her students to realize that some functions of a package, such as “to protect,” can easily be accomplished by using either base material, but others, such as “to display” are easier to meet by using one material or the other. (3:41 and 4:42) 

Students focus on the package engineering problem of meeting the needs of a plant product and the consumer as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve their own plant packages.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing a Plant Package / Grade 4 / Winthrop, MA
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EiE - Thinking Inside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L4

Reflection Questions

How does Rosemary structure student progress through the steps of the Engineering Design Process (EDP)?

Rosemary uses the EDP handouts provided in the teacher guide to help her present and describe important features of each step.

  • At the beginning of the lesson, Rosemary’s students use the first handout to summarize what they have learned during the Ask step of the EDP. (0:55)
  • Using the Imagine Step handout, Rosemary introduces and explains the role of brainstorming and contrasts it with the goals of planning. (1:28)
  • Using the Plan page, students are forced to compromise and combine ideas into a single solution. (3:01)
  • Before they create, Rosemary reviews the scoring sheet to remind students of the challenge’s criteria and constraints. (4:18)
  • After presenting their original designs to the class, Rosemary’s students use the Improve page to record potential design changes. (11:32)

How does the group share-out of all ideas help motivate students for the Improve step?

The whole-class sharing of design solutions gets all students thinking about what worked, what didn't work, and what they might do next.

  • By having groups share both their design plan and their final design, Rosemary reinforces the whole EDP, not just the product. This makes the idea of improvement fall naturally into place. (8:44)
  • During the presentation, students gave each other ideas for improvements, so that everyone has ideas of how to begin. (4:03)
  • When asked to evaluate and consider other groups' ideas, students are prompted to reconsider their own designs.
Designing a Plant Package / Grade 3 / Louisville, KY
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EiE - Thinking Inside the Box: Designing Plant Packages, L4

Reflection Questions

Erin’s class produces a wide range of solutions to the plant packaging problem. What strategies do you see Erin using to promote this kind of divergent thinking?

Erin has set up a classroom culture that values individual thinking—students are not encouraged to agree on one “right answer” or do things the same way.

  • In the Imagine step, Erin is very explicit about having groups come up with two different designs before moving on to Plan. (1:29)
  • Erin’s students are proud of and take ownership of their unique ideas. (2:23 and 6:32)
  • Erin encourages and motivates her students to think differently by saying things like “You have an idea? Go for it!” or “You’re poking the holes before you put it on there. Very good.”

What strategies does Erin use to connect student actions to the Engineering Design Process (EDP)?

Erin is always explicit about what step her students are working on and relates their work back to the process that Fadil used in the storybook.

  • Before starting today’s lesson, Erin reviews where they are in the EDP, and reviews the issues they addressed during the Ask stage. (0:26–1:00)
  • Erin reminds her students of the EDP in the storybook when she asks them to recall what Fadil did during the Imagine phase. (1:08)
  • When beginning the Create stage, Erin specifically calls out the planning process, reminding them to refer to the plans they made when they start building. (3:10)