Tiny Homes- Sorting Materials

Name of Activity

Sorting Materials




materials, properties, building, resources, plastic, paper, wood, metal, rubber



Grade Level

4, 5, 6


Less than 1 Hour

Brief Description

Students are put into groups of 2-4 and given several different objects, which are meant to be representative of different materials. The students are then instructed to sort the materials in whatever way makes the most sense to them. This part can be done with a break in the middle for students to walk around and see what other groups are doing (this encourages sharing ideas instead of competing against other teams). At the end of the activity groups are asked to explain why they sorted things the way they did. Materials vocabulary (stability, flexibility, strength, insulator, conductor, etc.) can be introduced at the beginning or end of the activity.

Learning Goals:

Introduce the idea of how a material’s properties are distinct from but related to its appearance. If time allows, relate this idea to how materials can be used in good building practice.


Assorted found materials (not an exact list): popsicle sticks, tin foil, lego bricks, straw, cotton balls, cardboard, paper clip, plastic spoon, rubber band or eraser


Collect materials into sets for each group of students. Maybe have a visual aid to explain material properties.

Knowledge Background

It helps if the teacher is familiar with some material properties and the process of learning through experimentation.


  1. Put students in groups of 2-4.
  2. Explain that a material property is a measurable traitĀ of how a material acts.
    1. Color is an easy example but could be confusing.

  • Introduce the concepts of a few properties.
    1. E.g. flexibility, stability, strength
    2. This can also be done at the end to see what they come up with first.

  • Allow students to sort in their groups for 10-20 minutes.
  • If desired, give students a 2 minutes break in the middle to walk around and see other ideas.
  • Wrap up the activity with presentations by each group.
  • Teach how certain properties fit the different groups of sorted materials.
  • If time allows talk about how certain properties go with certain materials (e.g. rubber is flexible).
  • Extensions:

    This activity was conceived as part of the tiny homes building unit (partially adopted from the WSTOMP Materials House Design Unit). In this context, the activity can be a good introduction to the idea of building a home and what materials fit this task.

    Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable)

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