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This plan introduces skills of collaboration, and problem solving.

Level: Advanced
Age Group: 3-5
Time: 90 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

Getting started

This project challenge is suggested after class investigation and definition of wheels and axle systems. The class should have had a discussion or read books to have context for their creations. Always review the group-defined rules for positive collaboration.

While play is underway

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

Students will build a vehicle with wheels and axles. Their task is to transport a load from point A to point B, which will be determined by the teacher and the class.


  • Begin by discussing the difference of going around an object vs. rotating around an axle. Define and explain how an axle and wheel work together.
  • Address the position of where axles can be placed and discuss why you would use them on the circular Rigamajig pieces. This minor step of problem solving as a class may allow for students to be more efficient during their creation time.
  • Illustrate and explain how to lock in an axle using two bolts.
  • Ask the students to experiment with trying to carry the load from point A to point B without the assistance of the vehicle.
  • Introduce the task.
  • Divide up Rigamajig kit equally amongst the group.
  • Break up class into groups of 2 - 4 students. Each group should come up with a group name. This encourages camaraderie amongst the groups and makes it easier to address the groups as they work.
  • Provide paper and pencil for students to draw their ideas while brainstorming and making plans with their group members.
  • Have Fun!


  • Does the work of moving the load from point A to point B become easier with the help of the vehicle? Explain why.
  • What modifications can you continue to add or take away to improve the function of your vehicle?
  • Teacher will be recording conversations and taking pictures/video to document work.


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.

  • Wheels
  • Axles
  • 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

  • Gallery Walk:
    • Each group will have time to talk about the process of building their vehicles and show how it moves the load from point A to point B.  The teacher/facilitator may also encourage groups to share what worked best and the major challenges. Each group should be able to articulate how their invention made the transport easier than just simply carrying the load.
  • Optional Language Arts Extension:
    • Ask the students to write an individual reflection in a “simple machines journal” that keeps track of their projects. This can be a drawing that is labeled, sentences, photographs; anything that the class/child decides to use as their documentation of their experience and creations. The format should be determined by the person facilitating the explorations. Reflection and keeping a record encourages true scientific behavior and is another skill that emerges from these projects.
  • Follow-up Questions
    • 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 madee

Education standards addressed

  • 3-5 - ETS1- Engineering Design NGSS
  • Meets Common Core Math Standards Geometry
  • 21st Century Skills

Download project plan

Download Wheels and Axles 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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