STEM Lab: Building and Evaluating a Feeder

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SWBAT build and evaluate their own bird feeder.

Big Idea

With their own designs, students build and test a bird feeder!


This is the follow up to this lesson, where students learned about and planned how to build a bird feeder.

This lesson supports Essential Standard 1.L.2.2, "Summarize the basic needs of a variety of different animals (including air, water, and food) for energy and growth." We are using recyclable and reusable materials in the building process which supports 1.L.1.3, "Summarize ways that humans protect their environment and/or improve conditions for the growth of the plants and animals that live there (e.g., reuse or recycle products to avoid littering)". By using these materials instead of new items, we include stewardship by improving the conditions for the growth of animals as well as cleaning up our environment. Since bird feeders provide basic needs for birds in lots of different environments and the students will be choosing where to put their feeder, this lesson also supports 1.L.1.2, "Give examples of how the needs of different plants and animals can be met by their environments in North Carolina or different places throughout the world."

This projects aligns to Science and Engineering Practice 6, "Construction Explanations and Designing Solutions" because students are using tools and designing a solution to a problem, and generating multiple solutions to a problem by creating 2 plans. It also supports NGSS standard ETS1-2 as students are developing a physical model from their sketches to solve a given problem.


Building supplies students listed on their Bird Feeder Materials List(styrofoam, egg cartons, cardboard, string, tape, styrofoam/plastic cups, plastic plates, etc.)

Scissors, adhesives



60 minutes

Using the designs and materials that students chose in the previous lesson, I start the building by saying,

"You will have the whole time today to work on building your design from yesterday. Remember, safety comes first. If you need something cut or glued that you cannot do easily yourself, ask me! I will come around and help you as you work".

As students work, I help where needed and encourage students to really match their drawn design with their product. We spend the whole time today building. If anyone finishes, I check their product with their design and then put it out of reach (so nobody else thinks they can use it!) and ask the student to help someone else.

At the beginning of the second day of building, I say,

"Before beginning to work on your feeder today, we are going to take about 5 minutes and you are going to get suggestions from a partner about your design. This is how to do it: One person shows their feeder to their partner, then the partner tells one or two ways the person could improve their feeder. Then, you switch and talk about the other person's feeder. That way, everyone gets a new idea as they start to work today".

 I encourage students to help each other when they finish their own feeder and I continue to help students to finish their project.



10 minutes

After the feeders are complete, I say,

"We can move on to the fourth step in the design process, which is to evaluate our feeder. To do this, we need to check and see if they solve the problem. Who remembers what the problem is? That's right - birds cannot find their own food in the winter. To evaluate our bird feeders, everyone is going to get a little bird food to fill up your feeder. We will see if you feeder can hold food - then you can either take it home to feed the birds there or leave it in our schoolyard!"

I have put about 1/2 cup of bird food in a ziploc bag for each student. I expect spills, so I have a small broom nearby! As students fill up their feeders, I ask them if the feeder can support the weight and if the food will stay dry. If anyone needs to make big changes, I help them!



15 minutes

On the final day of STEM Lab, we work to communicate about the project. We always do this in two ways which allows for all students to have a way to communicate, whether they are stronger in verbal communication or written communication. To support writing standard W.1.3,"Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure", students are going to write "How to Make a Bird Feeder" using the Directions Template today.

 The second way that students communicate about their lesson is on video. As the students work on the written component, I ask them to come one at a time and take a 15 second video of them talking about their design. I ask them the question, "Where are you going to put your feeder? Why?" to get them talking. I upload the videos on our school website and share the link with parents, so they know what we're up to! Communicating ideas and scientific information supports Science and Engineering Practice 8.