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This lesson plan is an introduction to the Rigamajig materials and how they work. Give children plenty of time to explore the properties of all the Rigamajig pieces and connectors, plus time to put pieces together to build anything they want.

Level: Beginner
Age Group: Grades 3 to 5

Main Goal: Get familiar with all of the Rigamajig pieces, learn how to attach pieces, and build a structure.

Guiding and supporting play

  • Observe, observe, observe!
  • Allow children to explore their own Rigamajig play ideas. There is no set formula for “right” or “wrong” outcomes.
  • Children may produce a variety of Rigamajig ideas to meet the basic goals of this lesson plan. No two creations or play sessions are alike. Be comfortable with letting children’s play evolve.
  • Let them make “mistakes” and problem-solve together. (Celebrate mistakes as opportunities to improve their design!)
  • Resist the urge to “fix” things for children or to show or tell children how to do things. Observe, and pay attention to children’s ideas, actions, and problem-solving. Support play in ways that focus children on their own ideas. Ask about what students are planning to do, what they are making, and what they can change to make their Rigamajig work better?
  • Discover insights into children’s creative thinking, and foster creativity!

Materials needed

  • Rigamajig Basic Builder Kit

Getting started

Tell the children today they will have the opportunity to play with a new building set, Rigamajig. “Today you can explore how Rigamajig works. First, take all the pieces out of the cart and organize them on the floor. What will you name each different piece? Work together to find names that you like for each kind of piece. Then find out ways to fasten pieces together so that you can build something. I will help you figure out how pieces work, if you need any help. (For some groups, you may need to demonstrate how to fasten pieces together using nuts and bolts, and brackets.) Then you can use your time to build anything you want! Be creative and use your imaginations!”

Optional: For some groups, consider extending this first play session if time allows so students can agree on the names of pieces and have time to tinker with the mechanics of the pieces. You may also take a break after naming the pieces and resume play later for building.

While play is underway

Observe with an interested and supportive attitude. As needed, encourage problem-solving thinking, creativity, collaboration, discussion, and questions.


Post some of the following words on a White Board, SmartBoard, sheet of chart paper or have the students make their vocabulary lists or posters of the key words. Encourage children’s use of these words as they design and build. Encourage children to label the physical components of their creations.

  • Build
  • Goal
  • Design
  • Solve problems
  • Teamwork
  • Boards, planks, pulleys
  • Nuts, bolts, corner brackets

Possible comments

  • Tell me about what you have in mind.
  • That’s an interesting idea! How can you do that?
  • Ask children to talk about experiences from their own lives as related to their ideas and constructions.
  • Would you like one of your friends to help you do that?
  • I see something that you made that goes up and down! (or around in a circle, or rolls) How does it work?
  • Can you think of a way to fix that problem? Can you think of a solution? Can you try a different way?

What to look for

  • Watch for children’s collaborations in their thinking and construction. Offer encouraging words about working together to build something.
  • Pay particular attention to how children go about their construction process. Do they seem to have a specific goal? Or, do they seem more focused on learning about the properties of the materials and different things they can do with them?
  • Pay attention to the language children use when communicating with you or other children about their construction process. What do their words reveal about their knowledge of objects, physical processes, design, and/or social collaboration?
  • When children indicate they accomplished something, encourage them to demonstrate their construction and how it works, to share with other children or other groups.

What if the children “stall”?

  • Sit with the group and ask them to discuss their ideas for what to build. Can they agree on something?
  • Ask what could be the first step (or the next stop) in making what they want, and what each of them could do to contribute.
  • Reinforce that any kind of construction is OK, it’s whatever they want to do!
  • Building something and then ask children to join you in the exploration. Pick up a few pieces and put them together for children to see. Don’t be afraid to model taking a risk, exploring, or changing an initial idea.

Wrapping up & reflecting

  • Take photos of the construction(s), if the children seem interested in recording what they did with a photo. (Make a video of the children’s construction process.)
  • Children can make a drawing of what they built.
  • Ask children to draw a series of pictures about how they made their construction (show the process, from beginning to end.) Ask them to write a caption for each picture, describing was going on.
  • Clean up time: Encourage children to put the Rigamajig pieces away in a neat and organized way.
  • If children are unable to finish a construction during a play session, if possible, offer the opportunity to leave the pieces together and finish building next time.
  • Lead discussions with children, one-on-one, in small groups, as a whole class group, or between classrooms in schools, reflecting about their experiences. Prompting examples:
    • Share something about what you made today with Rigamajig (tell about, show drawings, and/or read what you wrote; project drawings on the smartboard)
    • How did you think about what to make?
    • Did you work with other kids? Who? What did each of you do?
    • I noticed when you were building you changed your plan. What did you change and why did you change it? What did you discover as you were building?
    • I see that you had a problem getting your crane to go up and down. What did you do to solve that problem?
    • Would you like to work on (your construction) some more next time? What else would you like to do with it? What are your ideas for next time? What other problems could you solve using Rigamajig?
  • Arrange for each group to share what they did with the whole class or with other classrooms, giving each child an opportunity to demonstrate or talk about their design and building process.

Education Standards Addressed

  • Practice 1: Asking questions and defining problems.
  • Practice 2: Developing and using models.
  • 3-5-ETS1-1 Engineering Design: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

  • Identifies Problem/Communicates Goals
  • Design and Construction: collects materials and builds something
  • Evaluates: Observes, tests how structure works
  • Solves Problems: Verbally identifies problems or needed improvements, suggests solutions to problems
  • Uses Technical Vocabulary: uses STEM-related words

  • Creating
  • Collaborating
  • Problem solving
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Flexibility

  • Practice: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. (Gr. 3, 4, 5)
  • Measurement and Data: Solve problems involving measurement and estimation of intervals of time, liquid volumes, and masses of objects. (Gr. 3)
  • Geometry: Reason with shapes and their attributes. (Gr. 3)
  • Operations and Algebraic Thinking: Generate and analyze patterns. (Gr. 4)
  • Operations and Algebraic Thinking: Analyze patterns and relationships. (Gr. 5)

  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

Download project plan

Explore and Build PDF

With the help of Zachary S. Gold, Ph.D., James G. Elicker, Ph.D., The CarMax Foundation, and our friends at KaBOOM!, we've put together a few project plans to get you started. If you have any projects you'd like to share with the world, please email us at hi@rigamajig.com

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