Mini Challenges

A good way to get started on your maker journey is to have your students engage in some maker challenges.  The goal of these is to begin to have students work through the design thinking model:

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 7.23.33 PM

By having students get used to using a variety of materials with a smaller focus they will get used to the idea of collaborating to create something out of the materials they have at their disposal.  They will also have the opportunity to test their designs, as well as reflect and refine their designs as they go through multiple cycles of the design thinking process.

Challenge #1:  The Tin Forest

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 4.22.59 PM

Using the Box Trolls movie trailer or the Book Tin Forest as a hook, have students create a tin forest or city where they use only metal/tin to create small spaces for creatures to live.  They should engage in group brainstorming as to what the features of their forest or city could have and then make plans with a small group for what they want to build.  This task could represent 4-5 small mini lessons with the build being on the last two days, or it could represent a full afternoon of work.  At the end of this challenge, have students reflect on their work and what challenges they encountered when using the material or collaborating with their peers, and reflect on the successes in these areas as well.

Challenge #2:  Materials Challenge


Have students choose a specific material to work with and a specific challenge to solve with that material.  For example:

  • Use cardboard to connect all of the desks/tables in the room so that dinky cars can use it as a speedway.
  • Using tin foil, build a structure that can hold up three textbooks at least 30 cm off the ground.
  • Using string and fabric, build something that could catch something else.

The possibilities with materials challenges are endless.

Challenge #3:  Rube Goldberg Machines

Introduce students to the work of Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist who drew complicated machines that performed simple tasks.


You can also use music videos from OK Go! as inspiration or find innumerable examples on youtube.

These contraptions connect well to the Grade 4 Science unit on building devices and things that move as well as simple machines.

Some other ideas to get you started:

  • Build something that is strong
  • Build something that moves
  • Build something that is tiny
  • Build something that is loud
  • Build something that can attach to your neighbour’s creation
  • Build something that connects
  • Build something that rolls
  • Build something that has gears that work

Not all maker challenges need to be connected specifically to an area of the Program of Studies, they can simply be used to teach the design-thinking model and build to bigger, more complex challenges.