Lesson 1

  • Challenge learning goals:
    • Design and make a pattern/rapid prototype of a birdhouse
    • Build a birdhouse
    • Build a maker mindset
    • Warm-up: 
    • experience, name and describe the faces of a birdhouse.
  • Preparation:
    • Students work in groups to share tools and ideas but each individual student makes their own pattern and birdhouse


Warm Up

5 minutes

Students look at pictures or 3-D examples of variously shaped birdhouses and name the faces and the shapes of the faces.  (Teacher may choose to explore other more familiar 3-D objects first, such as a tissue box or cube; teacher may choose on an earlier day to disassemble a cardboard tissue box or fold an origami box.)

Task 1 - Dot Paper Prototype

44 minutes


"I wonder how many cm square tiles it would take to cover this bird house?  Look at this dot paper, does anyone see squares? Let's draw some in." (Possibly with Elmo.) “Can we count/estimate how many of these squares fit on one side of the birdhouse?” Teacher will introduce "square centimeter" and introduce surface area on one face of one birdhouse.  Teacher will ask students to remind teacher how many faces there are. Students will estimate the surface area of their bird houses without an in-depth lesson in surface area: students will give a "too big" and "too little" estimate, and record these with along with their edge measurements.  

Teacher explains that: 

  • All faces must fit in half sheets of cm dot paper
  • Students will draw before they cut
  • All edge cuts must be straight and corners must be on dots (diagonals allowed)  A round door is allowed.
  • All birdhouses must incorporate at least two "different shapes" (for the present students will decide what "different shapes" means)
  • The first birdhouse made on dot paper will be taken apart to be used as a pattern for the final birdhouse (so should be constructed with this in mind).

Challenge Ending: 

  • Students will record measurements of all edges of all faces of their birdhouse (edges can be inferred from dots).  Students will go on a gallery walk of all birdhouses.


Maker ideas:

  • Group work: listening to and offering ideas
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Scouting: learning by observing others
  • Attention to materials limitation

Mathematical ideas:

  • Linear measurement
  • Estimation
  • Additive area, conservation of area
Task 2 - Foam Core

37 minutes


  • Students will use their dot paper birdhouse as a pattern to cut out and construct their foam core birdhouse.  Students will keep and carefully label their dot paper pattern pieces. (How will students measure diagonals? Give them time to work this out in their groups.  They can use their dot paper as rulers, or teacher can have a centimeter ruler available at students' request.) Students will:
    • note how many pattern pieces they have
    • note the one-to-one correspondence    between pattern pieces and final house
    • label the pattern pieces (side, roof, etc) and label the lengths of all edges (using the dots as their measurement)
    • Students have also captured their "too small too big" initial estimates for area of their houses.


  • Were any changes made between the prototype and the final house?
  • What did anyone notice? (open)
  • (A few students) Demonstrate for the class the correspondence between the pattern parts and the final house.  How many faces does your house have?
  • (A few students) Demonstrate the measurements of the pattern pieces.
  • (A few students) Do edges that touch have the same measurement?  Demonstrate. (Edges will not necessarily have the same measurement.  Some edges may overhang or some open spaces may be deliberately designed in as doors or ventilation.)
  • What shapes did you use?  (Record collection of shapes on the board.)
  • Does everyone have measurements for all edges of all pattern pieces? 

Materials for this Lesson

  • 6 half-sheets of centimeter dot paper per student
  • Foam core board for second task (note foam core is likely to be in inches.  One 24x36 sheet of foam core will make two bird houses. With care two sheets of foam core will make 5 bird houses)
  • Scissors for prototype, cutting tools for foam (Falcon paper cutter works well)
  • (centimeter rulers available for diagonals?)
  • Pencils, scratch paper for recording measurements
  • clear tape (scotch tape for prototype, packaging tape for final)
  • straight edge tools
  • Elmo, or board, for demonstrating square centimeters


Warm Up

  • 5 minutes

Task 1: Dot Paper Prototype

  • Launch: 3 minutes
  • Build: 30 minutes
  • Measure: 3 minutes
  • Synthesis: 8 minutes

Task 2: Foam Core

  • Revise: 30 minutes
  • Synthesis: 5 minutes