Hands-on Activity Built to Last? Designing Experiments to Test Jungle Shelters

Quick Look

Grade Level: 5

Time Required: 45 minutes

Expendable Cost/Group: US $5.30

Group Size: 3

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Earth and Space

NGSS Performance Expectations:

NGSS Three Dimensional Triangle

A shelter made of big leaves, plants and sticks in the forest.
An example of a shelter made in the forest.
Copyright © http://www.moveto10.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/sh.jpg


In the continuing "Lost in the Amazon" scenario of this unit, students test the shelters they built in this unit's Lesson 3, Activity 1, for durability and water resistance.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

This lesson and activity provides an opportunity for student teams to complete the engineering design process used by practicing engineers, including constructing and testing their designs. See the related unit's Engineering Connection for further explanation.

Learning Objectives

Design and conduct a scientific experiment by testing model shelters for durability and water resistance.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

3-5-ETS1-3. Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved. (Grades 3 - 5)

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This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered.

Alignment agreement:

Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved.

Alignment agreement:

Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and the constraints.

Alignment agreement:

  • Use tools to gather, view, analyze, and report results for scientific investigations about the relationships among mass, weight, volume, and density (Grade 6) More Details

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  • Identify evidence that suggests there is a fundamental building block of matter (Grade 6) More Details

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  • There are different forms of energy, and those forms of energy can be changed from one form to another – but total energy is conserved (Grade 8) More Details

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Materials List

Per Group:

  • 1 Dixie cup or small bowl (as used in Activity 1)
  • 1 cake tray
  • 1 watering can (or cup with holes poked in the bottom of it)
  • 1 container with lid (such as a coffee can)

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/csm_lesson3_activity2_tg] to print or download.


Will these shelters keep us dry in the rainforest? Will these shelters be sturdy enough to protect us? How can we test them to see if they are durable and rain resistant? (As guided by the worksheet, proceed to work together as a class to design an experiment to test the shelters.)


  • Discuss with students a good way to test the durability of the shelters.
  • Give groups a time limit for setup in each step of testing their shelters.

Example Test

  • After the shelters have been built, fold them.
  • Put the folded shelters in a container (coffee can) and shake the container to simulate walking through the rainforest.
  • Remove the shelter from the container and set it up on the cake tray with the Dixie cup inside.
  • Using the watering can, pour water onto the shelter.
  • Draw a line and number at the level of water on the cup. Measure the amount of water that ran into the cup and record this amount on a data sheet.
  • Repeat steps 1-5 of this test five or six times to represent five or six nights.


Worksheet: Have each group complete and hand in the worksheet. Review their answers to gauge their depth of comprehension.


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More Curriculum Like This

Upper Elementary Lesson
The Need for Shelter

As part of the continuing adventure scenario for this unit, students build shelters to protect themselves from the rain. After the shelters are built, the class performs durability and waterproof testing on the shelters.


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Colorado School of Mines

Supporting Program

Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines


Adventure Engineering was supported by National Science Foundation grant nos. DUE 9950660 and GK-12 0086457. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: June 18, 2018

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