What Can you Build with Wood and Paper?

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SWBAT create a structure using wood and paper by using the engineering design process.

Big Idea

Kids use what they know about the properties of wood and paper to build a wood and paper structure.


10 minutes

I explain to the kids that wood and paper are used to make all sorts of things. I explain how a paper kite is made. I then ask them to think about things that are made of both wood and paper.

I ask them to share their ideas with their floor partner and then ask for volunteers to tell the class what the ideas they came up with. Each person in the pair is given 20 seconds to share. 

After a few kids have shared, I explain to the class how the properties of wood and paper can work together to build stronger structures. I also so them three or four structures that I made myself the day before. I use them to demonstrate the uses of the properties of wood and paper working together. 

I say things like:

  • paper does not stand well on its own, so wood can be used to support it
  • paper and wood need something to hold it together so glue and yarn can help do that
  • using glue will make paper stiff and strong, making the structure stronger


15 minutes

We begin this lesson with the exploration because the kids have a basic understanding of the properties of wood and paper and should be able to apply it to the expected outcome of this lesson, which is to construct a wood and paper sculpture. 

All of the materials are prepared for each table the night before. I place them on the tables as I call on table at a time to sit on the floor for instructions. 


  • craft sticks
  • scrap paper
  • scissors
  • glue
  • paper plates
  • newspaper strips

I show the kids the materials that are included in the tub. I tell the kids that they are going to have 10 minutes to build whatever structure they can using only the materials in the tub. I tell them that they must share the materials and respect each other at all times when working. Anyone not respecting others while working will not be allowed to complete the building a structure. 

I set a timer for 10 minutes and tell the kids that I will push start once they are at their tables ready to work. I tell them that they must stop working as soon as they hear the timer go off. I will let them know when they are down to 5, 2 and 1 minute so they can pace accordingly. 

I dismiss one team at a time to go sit at their tables with their hands in their laps. Once all the kids are seated, I tell them to begin working and I press the start button on the timer.

As the kids work, I roam the room and assist as needed and answer questions. I also ask kids to explain to me what they are doing, what materials they are using and why they are choosing to use those materials. 


10 minutes

When the timer goes off, the kids are asked to stop working and place their hands in their lap. We regroup on the floor so I can explain the next step. 

I tell the kids that we are going to take a "museum walk." Each team will be given 30 seconds to view the structures built by the other students. They are to use their eyes only and they are to talk to each other about what they observe. 

Each group is assigned to start at their own tables. They are to move clockwise around the room to view the other structures. I set the timer for 30 seconds for each table. We rotate until each group has seen every table. I roam the room to monitor behavior and discussions. This allows the kids to see how other students used the same materials they had access to. It shows them other ways that the same materials can be used and supports creativity and extension of the task.

Once we are finished the rotations, I call the teams back to sit on the floor. We have a quick discuss about what we observed. I ask:

  • What things did you notice that are the same with each structure?
  • What things did you notice that are different with the structures?
  • How do you think it is possible that materials such as sticks and paper can stand up and act like a building?
  • How did you see people use the wood?
  • What kinds of paper did you see used and where?
  • What made the paper a good choice for the way it is being used?

For each question I have the kids share their thoughts with their floor partner. I then call on two kids to share with the whole class what they discussed. This allows for time conservation as well as thought validation.


10 minutes

The evaluation is done through questioning. I ask the teams to go back to their tables one at a time. I ask each team one of the questions previously asked in the whole group discussion.

The teams are asked to discuss the question for one minute and then present to the class their thoughts. 

I give one at a time a question, 10 seconds think time and 30 seconds talk time. They are then given 20 seconds to share their discussion with the class. 

The other teams are encouraged to ask clarifying or probing questions to gain more information. 

This evaluation allows students to support each other in communicating unifying ideas based on evidence. It also allows my ELL students and my struggling students to see scientific communication modeled by others so that they may as actively participate as the rest of the class. 


5 minutes

To extend this activity, I ask the kids to think of other things that they could use to make even stronger structures. They are to think of as many times as they can in 20 seconds.

After they share their ideas, I call on a few random kids from pulling name sticks from a name stick can and ask them to share. I list the materials on the board. 

I then ask the kids to volunteer ideas on how they might make stronger structures by using these materials and how the materials listed help make the structure stronger.

I tell the kids that they should tell their families what they did in science today and they should build a structure using other materials including wood and paper with their families. They are welcome to bring it in and share it with the class.

This extension makes a fun, family-oriented activity utilizing what the kids have learned. It's a great home-school connection.