I was spending time with my nephews and they had a problem that they could not solve. I asked them if they had ever heard of the design process because I thought it would be helpful to them. They had not heard of it. I explained how the design process is used in engineering, but is now more commonly being applied to school projects as well as combatting everyday obstacles. Simply put, the design process takes a problem and makes it more manageable by breaking it down into pieces.

The problem they were trying to solve was, who could build a catapult out of lego bricks that could fling a minifigure across the room the farthest? We sat down and started to talk about the design process.

After we spent the afternoon talking this, I decided this would be a useful document I could make for my TeachersPayTeachers store. I decided to base a series of STEM challenges around the design process. The first challenge is to make an apple schoolhouse.

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We had fun getting the materials together. I cut all of the apples so that they would have to work with the pieces given. I did this as an extra challenge, once I heard they wanted to slice the apples thinly and use them for shingles. I even gave them the apple core, as you never know what they might want to do with it.


My nephews had a lot of fun designing the house together and brainstorming what they wanted to add to their house. My youngest nephew insisted on a door that would open.

The planning stage is important! Planning helps students narrow down their thoughts and focus on the best solution. In this case they needed to focus on the details. This is why I encourage the students to not simply draw out their plan, but to create a diagram: a detailed, labeled blueprint.


There are other steps to the design process, but I’ll focus on those in future posts.

Here are a few more fun pictures of my nephews working on their Apple Schoolhouse.



Here is the finished product! They were so proud of their accomplishment and it was a fun way to teach them a lot about the design process. I love the fact that they managed to create a door out of apple chunks and pipe cleaners that would open and close. I especially love how they used part of the paper plate as the roof of the schoolhouse!


You can get this product here: STEM Challenges Back to School

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