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This lesson plan is designed to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving, and collaboration within the group. Children will agree upon an idea for an animal to model, including its mode of protection. They will collaborate to construct and evaluate the animal model.

Level: Intermediate
Age Group: Grades 3 to 5

Main Goal: Imagine and model a living organism using building materials, including its way of protecting itself.

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 ideas to meet the basic objectives 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 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

Getting started

“Animals use lots of ways to protect themselves from danger. Can you think of any animal you know that has to protect itself? (Have students discuss animals). Today you will be building a model of an animal. As a part of the animal you create, be sure to include a way for the animal to protect itself when it’s in danger from something else. Any questions? Get started and be creative!”

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.

  • Goal
  • Design
  • Structure
  • Protection
  • Adaptation
  • Solve Problems
  • Teamwork

Possible comments

  • That kind of animal are you thinking about?
  • That’s an interesting idea! What are the parts of the animal you want to build?
  • How will your animal protect itself? What part did you design for protection?
  • Have you ever seen an animal like the one you are building?
  • Can you think of any way to fix that problem? Can you think of a solution? Can you try a different way?
  • Would you like one of your friends to help you? Ask them!
  • Tell me about the parts of your animal. How does it work

What to look for

  • Watch for children’s collaborations in their thinking and construction. Offer encouraging words about working together to build something.
  • If there are disagreements within the group about what animal to build, you may want to meet with the group and help them come to a decision for this build. (Possible to save other ideas for future builds!)
  • Pay particular attention to how children go about their construction process. Do they maintain a focus on their goal?
  • Pay attention to the words 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 have accomplished something, give them a chance to demonstrate their construction and how it works, and share with you and 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?
  • It may be helpful for the group to look at photos or factual descriptions of the animal they have chosen to replicate.
  • 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

  • Children can make a drawing of the animal they built and how it moves and how it protects itself.
  • Ask each child to draw a series of pictures about how they constructed their animal (show the process, from beginning to end.) Ask them to write a caption for each picture, describing what they did at each step in the process.
  • Take photos or videos of the construction(s), if the children seem interested in recording what they did. Children may then write captions for the images. (Or, make a video of the children’s construction process.)
  • Clean up time: Encourage children to put the Rigamajig pieces away in a neat and organized way.
  • If children are unable to finish their construction during one 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 the animal you made today with Rigamajig (tell about the parts of the animal, show how it protects itself, show drawings, and/or read what you wrote; project their drawings on the smartboard)
    • How did you think about what animal to make?
    • How did your group work together to build the animal? What did each of you do?
    • I noticed when you were building you had a problem getting your animal to work the way you wanted. What did you do to solve that problem? What did you change and why did you change it? What did you discover as you were building?
    • Would you like to work on your animal some more? What else would you like to add or change? What are your ideas for next time?
  • 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: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3-5- ETS1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
  • 3-LS4-3: Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

  • Identifies Problem/Communicates Goals
  • Creative and Innovative Ideas
  • Design and Construction
  • Solution Testing/Evaluation

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

  • Practice: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. (Gr. 3, 4, 5)
  • Practice: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. (Gr. 3, 4, 5)
  • Practice: Look for and make use of structure. (Gr. 3, 4, 5)
  • Measurement and Data: Understand concepts of area and relate area to multiplication and addition. (Grade 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)

  • Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
  • 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.
  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.


Download project plan

Download Turtle Shells, Bat Wings, and Other Protective Things 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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