How Do You Keep Goldilocks out of the Cottage?

To go along with the second grader’s Fairy Tale unit, Mrs. Garcia’s class came to the iLab to design a latch for the three bears. The idea came from a STEM Fairy Tale Unit called, A Latch for the Three Bears, by Sarah Wiggins. Click here to find it on the TeachersPayTeachers site.

The Challenge:

Of course, Goldilocks should NEVER have gone into the Bears’ house without asking. However, shouldn’t the Bears have locked their door?

A latch had to be attached to the cardstock door so that students could demonstrate how it worked.

The Materials:

Cardstock paper folded into 3 sections to create the “door” to the cottage, Bobby pins, straws, q-tips, bottle caps, masking tape, craft sticks, glue

The Process:

The students were introduced to the task as well as the materials available to them.We did have to explain what a latch was – that’s not exactly a common word anymore! Before sending them to their tables, I asked the children to individually think how they might combine the materials to create a latch. The next step was to brainstorm with their partner and start sketching ideas. The students then drew designs on the tables and discussed with their partners which to try.

As the students built, they often revised their plans. A couple groups had enough time to test both designs they had drawn. We did have a few students who focused more on drawing the inside of the bears’ house rather than designing the latch first. Another group felt like the house needed a fence first so they built that which meant that they ran out of time to make the latch.

After completing the task, the students were asked to upload their design to Seesaw where they were to explain how their latch worked.

Here are some samples:

Here’s a look at the students hard at work!

Mrs. Garcia’s Class 

Mrs. Shapard’s Class 

Next time I’ll be sure to tell students the latch is the most important thing to design and build – nothing else! IF there is time, then they can go back to add additional details (drawing the bears inside the house, adding outside elements like fences).

The best part of this (or any) design challenge is listening to the students share ideas as they brainstorm, construct, and make changes to the design. You really learn a LOT! What I’ve found is that the quieter students that might not speak out in a whole-group setting, truly shine with activities like this.

The Three Bears: Help from Second Graders

Mrs. Garcia, one of our second grade teachers, approached me to ask if we could do a design thinking/STEM activity that related to fairy tales. We brainstormed a list of tales that she wanted to present to her children and decided on 2 or 3 that we would use for the design thinking activities.

We started with Goldilocks and the Three Bears since it’s such a familiar story. On TeachersPayTeachers, I found a fun STEM activity where students build a latch for the 3 bears. This, combined with the Design Thinking “Launch” cycle, made for a really fun and productive morning!

The challenge: Build a latch for the three bears’ house that will prevent anyone from breaking in.

We discussed how designers, architects, builders, etc. work from written designs or blueprints. What would happen if a builder decided he didn’t need to follow a design; that he could work with just the idea in his head? Of course, the students could picture all kinds of ways that this would be a lousy idea! Then, we talked about what a latch is – not a very common word these days!

Following the Launch acronym, I asked the students to think like one of the three bears (empathy). How would you feel if someone entered your house without permission? Working in pairs, the children were given two minutes to talk about how they envisioned the latch would work. The hardest part of this particular part was not drawing! Only words (and lots of hand motions) were allowed! When the timer went off, there were lots of “Wait! We haven’t finished talking!” 

Next, the students drew designs. Again, a short time was given for sketching 2 or 3 ideas. Then, the hard part . . . deciding which design to use OR deciding how to incorporate elements from a few of the designs.

Only after all these steps were the students ready to construct! Supplies we used:

  • craft sticks
  • pipe cleaners
  • masking tape
  • straws
  • water bottle caps

Before collecting supplies, the children were to make a list of what they thought they would need. We did let them come back for more if needed.

As they built, we walked around to listen to the conversations and to ask questions. Listening to the students was an eye-opener! We were floored by the depth of their discussions as they built! And, it was amazing to watch them revise when they discovered kinks in their planning.

When all prototypes were completed, we came back together to share – not just describe the latch they built and how it worked. More importantly, we wanted to hear how the children handled ideas that didn’t work. Were you frustrated? Did you feel like giving up? What would you change in your design if you did this again?

Here’s a video of the students creating their latch.

Garcia_A Latch to Keep Goldilocks Out from Trinity Valley School on Vimeo.

This was so much fun! The best part for me was observing – I was absolutely amazed at the conversations and the complexity of the language that was heard!

I know children learn best through exploration, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how much they really can do on their own when we give them a challenge with no right or wrong answer. That’s when students really shine!