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Project 1 of 4

The following lesson is part of a series that should be explored in a sequential manner. Students will need the full exploration each concept in order to move from one phase of Levers, Arms and Fulcrum Points to the next. It is more than just play at this level. The purpose of these exercises is to take the concept of play into the field of science. It may not be easy, but it’s certainly will be fun!


This plan introduces skills of collaboration, imagination, and risk taking.

Level: Advanced
Age Group: 3-5
Time: 25 minutes

Main Goal: Collaboration, problem solving.

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 objectives of the lesson plan. No two creations or play sessions are alike. Be comfortable with letting children’s play evolve.
  • There are no mistakes, let them explore and problem solve.
  • Resist the urge to “fix” things for children and to show or tell children how to do things. Observe, and pay attention to children’s ideas and actions. 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
  • Simple Machines Add-on Kit

Getting started

When getting ready for exploration with the Simple Machines Add-On Kit and the Rigamajig Basic Builder Kit, it is essential for students to have a solid platform from which to work. By creating a simple vertical plane or horizontal plane, students now have the appropriate workspace to experiment and test their ideas.

Set up horizontal planes

Challenge #1:

  • Design and Create a simple horizontal plane with spacing allowing for gears to move freely.
  • Tip: With horizontal planes gravity can help you hold parts down! Moving parts like gears work best with a single wing bolt inserted from above. No nut is necessary to hold them in place!

Challenge #2:

  • Design and Create a vertical plane tall enough for gears to move freely without interference. Notice the effect gravity has on unbalanced parts!
  • Tip: Nuts are necessary to hold parts together in a vertical plane, but might tighten and bind on moving parts. Two nuts tightened against each other can lock together and prevent this, or use the Axles! The threads stop and keep nuts from binding on moving parts.

While play is underway

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

Challenges for Students

  • Can an inclined plane be set up that allows for gears other parts to be mounted to it? With inclined planes gravity works both to hold parts against the platform and to let unbalanced parts flop around.

Investigative questions to ask during exploration:

  • Is your creation structurally sound?
  • What are the useful features of your platform?
  • Can any addition be made to make it more complex and still maintain stability?


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.

  • Planes
  • Vertical
  • Horizontal
  • Gears
  • Unbalance / balance
  • Rotation
  • Goal
  • Design
  • Solve Problem
  • Evaluate
  • Teamwork

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. What do their words reveal about their knowledge of objects, physical processes, design, and/or social collaboration?
  • When children indicate they accomplished something, give them a chance to demonstrate their construction and how it works, and share with other children.

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?
  • Reinforce that any kind of construction is OK, it’s whatever they want to do!
  • 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

  • What are you (were you) most curious about?
  • What made for good collaboration?
  • Tell us about a problem you encountered and your group's solution.
  • Create drawings and descriptions or photographs and descriptions of work, including step by step as preferred
  • Share and present work, include discuss about how and why construction decisions were made

Education standards addressed

  • 3-5 - ETS1- Engineering Design NGSS
  • 21st Century Skills

Download project plan

Download Setting Up a Solid Foundation PDF

With the help our Captain of Play and Learing Ngina Johnson, 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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