Currently viewing the category: "Types of Engineering"

Name of Activity

Tiny Homes – Temperature Control (House Insulation)




tiny homes, sustainability, materials, properties, shoebox, planning, building, insulation, conductivity



Grade Level

5, 6, 7


1 Hour

Brief Description

Continue planning and building as part of the tiny homes sustainability unit. This week students learn how different materials conduct or insulate heat and start to incorporate these ideas into their building. They may also start to think about how to heat or cool their homes from an energy source.

Learning Goals:

Students will practice working together in groups, forming new concepts of how the world works from their experience, and making modifications to an existing project.


Cotton balls, metal sheet or aluminum foil, wood (popsicle sticks), felt, plastic, glue gun, masking tape


Make a set of all the materials for each group. Have the students already split into their groups when you get there if possible.

Knowledge Background

Ideally the teacher should have some knowledge of conductive and insulating materials. The teacher should have divided the students into their groups with the intention of group members functioning well together.


  1. Recap the previous lesson, during which groups began building their tiny homes in shoeboxes. Recall how each tiny home exists in a different part of the world and will be subject to different environments.
  2. Give each group a set of materials. Ask them to sort the materials by how warm they feel. (5 min.)
  3. Ask each group for their results. Most groups will say that metal feels colder and cotton balls feel the warmest, with plastics and wood somewhere in the middle.
  4. Use this idea to introduce heat transfer, and how cold-feeling materials are actually moving more heat away from your body.
  5. Introduce the key ideas of insulation and conduction. Touch on how insulators tend to trap air, resulting in less heat transfer.
  6. If they seem to be following well you could also mention how convection (moving air) tends to cool things down. This is why homes in warmer climates tend to have bigger windows or fans to move air around.
  7. For about the last 30 minutes of class groups should have the chance to apply this knowledge to their tiny homes.
    1. Give each group any of the materials they want to help control temperature in their home.
    2. Allow students to add materials with masking tape.
    3. About halfway through take a short break to share results and review any concepts that they seem to be unclear on.
    4. If a group is happy with the materials they’ve added to their home you can hot glue the materials on to finalize the design.

Previous Activity (if applicable)

Tiny Homes- Planning and Building

Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable)

Tiny Homes and Renewable Energy

Brief Description Students build the tallest tower possible to support a marshmallow. They can use only dry spaghetti and tape.
Subject Types of Engineering, Miscellaneous
Grade Level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Time 1 Hour Total
Lesson Objectives: Depending on your goals for the unit, the lesson objectives may include:

  1. Students will better understand what “engineering” is and practice using the engineering design process.
  2. Students will practice working with constraints. They will be able to identify the constraints in this activity.
  3. Students will be able to describe the properties of strong structures.
  4. Students will begin to realize that it is okay to fail!
Materials Needed:
  • dried spaghetti (10 pieces for every group)
  • masking tape (1 ft for every group)
  • marshmallows (1 per group)
  • measuring tape/yardstick (most classrooms have one)
Preparation and Set Up:
  • Gather necessary materials
  • When in the class, it is recommended that one STOMPer divide up the tape and spaghetti while the other STOMPer explains the activity.
Necessary Background This activity requires no specific background. Many STOMPers use it to introduce the engineering design process.
  1. Explain the activity: They will have 15 minutes to build the tallest tower out of 10 pieces of spaghetti and 12 inches of tape. The marshmallow must balance at the top of the tower.  The time limit and the limited amount of materials given are known as constraints. (No, you can’t eat the marshmallows. We will be measuring from to the top of the marshmallow so don’t use it as a base)
  2. Split students into groups of 2-4 students and let them work for 15 minutes. Circulate the classroom and talk about different designs.
  3. At the end of 15 minutes, measure the towers. It is recommended not to
  4. Discuss: What did you have trouble with in this challenge? What do you think you needed to make a better tower? How did you make yours stand up? Did the weight of the marshmallow make any towers collapse? You may also want to revisit and discuss any learning goals for the class.
  5. If time allows, you may repeat the activity. Many classes like to repeat the activity so that they can apply what they have just learned!
Author Laura Fradin, Jake Hellman
Reference 1

Tufts Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program • 200 Boston Ave. • Suite G810 • Medford, MA • 617-627-5888

Switch to our mobile site

Disclaimer | Non-Discrimination | Privacy | Terms for Creating and Maintaining Sites