Imagine, build, and share innovations that can help people living in extreme conditions. Using recycled materials, children will design models of shelters or other tools to help those living in the desert.
- Images of the desert
- Recycled materials (egg cartons, yogurt containers, milk jugs, shoe boxes, cardboard tubes, etc.)
- Colored construction paper
- Bubble wrap
- Chocolate chips
- Discuss the unique conditions of the desert with children. Ask: What kind of shelter could you construct in the desert? How could you stay cool in the heat of the day? Tell them their design challenge for today is to build something that will protect a chocolate chip from the heat of the “desert” (simulated by a hairdryer).
- Encourage children to plan their ideas using pencil and paper first.
- Children will build models of their ideas using recycled materials, construction paper, bubble wrap, tape, and scissors.
- Using a hairdryer to simulate the desert, invite children to test their models by placing a chocolate chip inside their creation to see if it will withstand the extreme weather conditions. Guide children to notice what happens to their models and to the chocolate chip: do pieces of it melt or become too hot to touch? What happens over time? Does the chocolate chip melt? How long does it take to melt?
- As children test their designs, use the thermometer to take and record the temperature of the chocolate. Which design has the coolest/warmest temperature?
- Challenge children to improve their design: How will it stay cool during the day and warm at night? What else does the model need?
Try these add-on activities:
- After children have finished building, hold a gallery walk and allow children to walk around to view each other’s creations.
- Ask older children to write about their creation and explain how it would help people survive in the desert.
- Learn about real innovations that help people who live in the desert today survive and thrive.
- Ask older kids what other extreme condition they want to solve for, such as the arctic tundra, living underwater, moving to Mars, etc. Help them think through constraints they would encounter in that situation.