Speak Friend and Enter!


This lesson plan introduces a particular human problem: how to build a structure that will protect the safety of indoors from external forces while allowing friendly animals to enter. Children will design a solution to protect animals with an innovative barrier and also have an entrance to allow animals to enter when they want. Children will share ideas and collaborate to build this moving barrier.

Level: Advanced
Age Group: Grades K to 2

Main Goal: Build something to stop an outside force from entering a structure while allowing friends to enter.

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.
  • Let them make “mistakes” and problem-solve together. (Celebrate mistakes as opportunities to improve their design!)
  • 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
  • A few small animal figurines or stuffed animals. Include about one animal per child. Have children work together to decide which animals to let in/keep out of their Rigamajig

Getting started

“Imagine that some animals live inside a Rigamajig! Some of the animals are outside and want to come in. You are going to design and build something that can do 2 things: 1) stop some animals from getting inside and 2) let animal friends come inside. First, think about what you might make together that can protect friendly animals from the outside and make sure they have a way inside. Then, think about what you can make to keep other animals out. With your group, discuss which ideas to use and then try it out with these animals!”

While play is underway

Observe with an interested and supportive attitude and, 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.

  • Force
  • Motion
  • Stabilize
  • Direction
  • Energy
  • Open, Closed
  • Hinge

Possible comments

  • Which animals are you going to decide you want to protect? Which ones do youwant to keep them out?
  • Talk to your teammates about how you can protect the animals and also leave an entrance.
  • That’s an interesting idea! How can you do that?
  • Ask children to talk about experiences with animal protections at the zoo, pets at home, or ways they know how to make an entrance and a barrier (e.g., walls, doors, things that close).
  • Would you like one of your friends to help you hold the piece while you do that?
  • I see something that you made a way to protect your animal friends. Hmm, how can you also build them a way in and out?
  • Can you think of any 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.
  • Some children may enjoy playing with the animal figures while building. Allow pretend play to unfold. It could help provoke children’s ideas about their Rigamajig!
  • 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, 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?
  • Ask what could be the first step (or the next step) in making what they want, and what each of them can 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

  • Children can make a drawing of what they built and how it works.
  • Take photos of the construction(s), if the children seem interested in recording what they did with a photo. (Make a stop motion video of the children’s construction process.)
  • 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 orderly way.
  • If children are unable to finish a construction during a play session, offer the opportunity to leave the pieces together and finish building next time.
  • Lead discussions with children, one-on-one, small groups, whole class group, or between classrooms in schools, reflecting about their experiences. Examples:
    • Share something about what you made today with Rigamajig (tell about, show drawings, and/or read that 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 another classroom, giving each child an opportunity to demonstrate or talk about their design and building process.

Supporting exploratory Rigamajig play in younger children

  • Use smaller play groups to support teamwork “closeness” among young or shy children.
  • Demonstrate connecting a few Rigamajig pieces using nuts, bolts, and brackets to scaffold the start of play and ensure children know how each type of fastener works. (Connecting pieces at a right angle using a bracket may help children build vertical structures).
  • Encourage children to talk with each other and ask for help as much as they want about any ideas, goals, or problems. It is okay for children to be informal, open, and curious!
  • Suggest ways young children can do more or collaborate. Examples:
    • I see Sally is building something interesting! Can you help her add more to it?
    • Is there another way you can use these pieces to build what you want?
    • Can you connect your two creations to make a larger Rigamajig together?
    • There are lots of sideways pieces here. Can you find a way to make them stand up using the brackets? (show if necessary)
  • Scaffold as you see fit if children need initial help getting started. Younger children may need to observe or join the teacher in connecting a few pieces to start their process of physical engagement with Rigamajig.

Education Standards Addressed

  • Practice 1: Asking questions and defining problems.
  • Practice 2: Developing and using models.
  • Practice 3: Planning and carrying out investigations.
  • Practice 6. Construction explanations and designing solutions.
  • Practice 8: Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.
  • K-2-ETS1-1 Engineering Design: Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
  • K-2-ETS1-2 Engineering Design: Structure and Function: The shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their function(s).
  • K-2-ETS1-3 Engineering Design: Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solving the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
  • 2-PS1-2 Matter and its Interactions: Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.

  • Identifies Problem/Communicates Goals
  • Design and Construction: collects materials, builds
  • Evaluates: Observes, tests how structure functions
  • Solves Problems: Verbally identifies problem, suggests solutions to problem
  • Uses Technical Vocabulary: STEM-related words

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

  • Practice 1: Make sense of problems and persevere through solving them (Gr. K, 1, 2)
  • Practice 2: Reason abstractly and quantitatively (Gr. K, 1, 2)
  • Practice 3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others (Gr. K, 1, 2)
  • Practice 5: Use appropriate tools strategically (Gr. K, 1, 2)
  • Practice 7: Look for and make use of structure (Gr. K, 1, 2)
  • Measurement and Data: Describe and compare measureable attributes (Gr. K)
  • Measurement and Data: Represent and interpret data (Gr. 1, 2)
  • Geometry: Analyze, compare, create, and compose shapes (Gr. K)
  • Geometry: Reason with shapes and their attributes (Gr. 1, 2)
  • Operations and Algebraic Thinking: Understanding addition as putting together and adding to, and understand subtraction as taking apart and taking from (Gr. K)
  • Operations and Algebraic Thinking: Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction (Gr. 1, 2)

  • Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about K-2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small or larger groups.
  • With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
  • Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.
  • Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage whe writing or speaking:
  • Use frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., to, from, in, out, on, off, by, during, toward)
  • Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.
  • Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
  • Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.
  • Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

Download project plan

Speak Friend and Enter! 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

New research study by Purdue University finds Rigamajig a great way to build 21st Century Skills and development in STEM disciplines! Learn more here!