Brief Description:  Students will be asked to build a house (out of LEGOs or non-LEGO materials). Students will not be aware that after the first house they will be asked to build a second house using the materials that they have left over. This will continue until it is impossible for the student to build more houses. This will lead to a discussion on resource use and engineering while being aware of conservation.

Grades: 3, 4, 5

Time: 1 hour

Keywords: civil engineering, sturdy structures, resources, conservation, renewable, non-renewable, environmental engineering

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will learn about the relationship between engineering and conservation.
  • Students will learn how they can participate in conservation.


  • Students can build houses out of whatever material is available. However, materials must be limited. Examples include:
    • 50 popsicle sticks and 1 yd of tape
    • 3 ft² of cardboard and 1 yd tape
    • 100 lego pieces


  1. Introduce civil engineering. Civil Engineers plan, design, and construct public works, city infrastructure, and buildings.
  2. Tell the students that their task is to design and build a house out of the provided materials.
    1. Think of requirements for the house (it must be a certain size, fit at least 3 lego mini-figures inside of it, have 2 doors, must have 4 windows, etc).
  3. Allow students to plan, design, and build their house.
  4. After students are done building their house, have a few students present their designs. Then have all students place their first houses on a desk/table at the front of the room. Students should return to their desks with their partner.
  5. Next, tell the students that their next task is to build a house out of the left-over materials and that they house must meet the same requirements of the first house.
    1. Some students may not have enough materials left to build a second house, if this is the case, allow groups to combine resources so that they can build a second house.
  6. After students have planned, designed, and built their second house, have the students present them to the class. What is different about these houses compared to the first house?
  7. If all the students have some material left-over,  have the students build a third house. By the time the students get to the third house they should pretty much have run out of materials.
  8. Discuss the activity and go through the Conservation Powerpoint (see resources) to discuss nonrenewable resources, environmental problems, alternative energy, and what students can do to be environmentally friendly.
    1. What would you have done differently if you knew that you had to build more than one house?
    2. How might this relate to the real world?
    3. What if you were required to build a neighborhood and you only had a certain amount of timber/bricks?
    4. What are some resources that we use a lot of?
    5. Could we run out of these resources (are the renewable, non-renewable)?
    6. What are some ways that we can conserve these resources?
    7. What can you do personally to reduce your impact on the environment?




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