To look at different kinds of materials; to identify the properties of materials and their suitability for different purposes.
This lesson is the first of a two-part series on the properties and uses of different materials.
In Materials 1: Materials and Manufacturing, the familiar tale of The Three Little Pigs is used as an introduction to materials and manufacturing. Students examine the properties, limitations, and durability of a variety of materials, then evaluate which of the materials would be best for building a model house. If used in its entirety, this lesson could take several science class times.
In Materials 2: Recycled Materials, students are introduced to the idea that some materials can be recycled.
The following print resources are recommended for this lesson:
- A traditional version of The Three Little Pigs
- The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by Jon Scieszka
Begin by asking students:
- If you were going to build a house, what material would you use?
- What makes this a good material for building a house?
Show students a small action figure or doll. Tell students that their job is to design a tiny model house for this “person." Have students draw a picture of the house that they would build.
Tell students that you will read the tale of some other housebuilders. Read a traditional version of The Three Little Pigs.
- What materials did the pigs use to build their houses?
- Why do you think they chose straw? Sticks? Bricks?
- Look at the house that you drew. Do you think that the wolf could have blown your house down? Why or why not?
Read The True Story of the Three Little Pigsby Jon Scieszka, in which the tale is retold from the wolf's perspective. In this version of the story, the wolf suggests that he unintentionally sneezed on the houses, which were only destroyed because of the shabby building materials that the pigs used.
- Do you agree with the wolf when he says that the pigs used poor building materials?
- Which pig(s) chose a poor material for building a house?
- What makes this a poor building material?
- What other materials could they have used? (Create a list of student ideas.)
- If you were going to build a house for the pigs, what material would you choose?
- What makes this a good material for building a house?
- Are the materials available in the classroom? If not, where could you find them?
- Would you need special tools to build with these materials? What kinds of tools?
Show students a small action figure or doll. Remind students that their job is to design a tiny model house for this "person." They can choose from any of the available classroom materials, but they should first spend some time investigating which materials would be the best for this task.
Work as a class to set criteria for deciding whether something is a good building material or not. Students might consider factors such as:
- What are the properties of the material?
- Where can you find it? Can you find it easily?
- Do you need to use special tools to work with this material?
- What happens to this material when it gets wet?
- Is it a strong material?
- Is it heavy or light?
- Cheap or expensive?
Based on the class criteria, model how students might assess a building material, using paper as an example.
- What makes paper a good material for building a model house? (It is light, cheap, easy to fold and bend, available in the classroom, and easy to cut and paste.)
- Are there any problems with this material? (There could be a problem when it gets wet, it could easily catch on fire, and it is not very strong.)
Have students work in small groups to investigate the suitability of a variety of building materials such as toothpicks, clay, Legos, blocks, paper, cardboard, plastic, Styrofoam, etc. What makes this material good for building? What makes it a poor building material? Groups should sort the building materials into two groups: "good" and "poor." Allow students to share which materials they selected as good materials for the project and why.
Have students revist their original sketch.
- Would you be able to actually build the house that you drew? Why or why not? (Introduce the notion of constraints – too expensive, takes too much time, need tools, scale too large for classroom.)
- What material will you use to build the model house and why?
Have students add to or change their previous sketch to show the model house that they would build based on what they know about the available classroom materials. Have them use pictures and/or words to describe which materials they used and why. Allow students to share their sketches.) If time and resources allow, students can construct the model homes.)
Read The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell and Jim Harris (Illustrator). In this Southwestern retelling, the javelinas construct houses out of tumbleweed, saguaro rib, and adobe.
- Have you ever heard of these materials?
- Are any of these materials like straw? Which? In what way is it like straw?
- Are any of these materials like sticks or wood? Which? In what way is it like wood?
- Are any of these materials like bricks? Which? In what way is it like a brick?
- Can you think of other uses for these materials?
- Why might the building materials be different in this version of the story? (Discuss the fact that different materials may be more widely available or more practical in different areas of the world.)
- Would these be good materials for building in the part of the world where you live? Why or why not?
Visit MBGnet to learn more about a desert environment and the Saguaro Cactus.
Follow this lesson with the second one in the Materials series: Materials 2: Recycled Materials.