Lesson: The Need for Shelter

Quick Look

Grade Level: 5

Time Required: 15 minutes

Lesson Dependency:

Subject Areas: Earth and Space

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


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.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Through this lesson and its activities, student teams complete the engineering design process used by practicing engineers including constructing and testing their designs. Testing is performed to verify that the proposed solution will solve the problem or challenge.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Build shelters to protect themselves from the rain
  • Perform durability and waterproof testing on the shelters

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-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. (Grades 3 - 5)

Do you agree with this alignment?

Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This lesson focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process, or system and includes several criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Alignment agreement:

Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.

Alignment agreement:

People's needs and wants change over time, as do their demands for new and improved technologies.

Alignment agreement:

  • Creative thinking and economic and cultural influences shape technological development. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • The design process is a purposeful method of planning practical solutions to problems. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Each plant or animal has different structures or behaviors that serve different functions (Grade 2) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • All living things share similar characteristics, but they also have differences that can be described and classified (Grade 4) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

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

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • 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

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

Suggest an alignment not listed above

More Curriculum Like This

The Crash Scene

Students are introduced to the (hypothetical) scenario in which they are a team of EnviroTech engineers returning to the U.S. from a conference in Brasilia, Brazil. When their plane crashes deep in the Amazon forest, they work in groups to overcome various obstacles in their quest to reach help as q...

preview of 'The Crash Scene' Lesson
Elementary Lesson
What to Wear and Drink? Weather Patterns & Climatic Regions

Students explore characteristics that define climatic regions. They learn how tropical, desert, coastal and alpine climates result in different lifestyles, clothing, water sources and food options for the people who live there.

Exploring Nondestructive Evaluation Methods

Students learn about nondestructive testing, the use of the finite element method (systems of equations) and real-world impacts, and then conduct mini-activities to apply Maxwell’s equations, generate currents, create magnetic fields and solve a system of equations. They see the value of NDE and FEM...

The Growling Stomach

Students investigate edible plants and insects in the Amazon as part of the "Lost in the Amazon" hypothetical scenario. They research plants and insects to identify characteristics that make them edible or useful for human survival.

preview of 'The Growling Stomach' Lesson
Elementary Lesson


Read the following part of the storyline with your students:

As you begin your journey into the exciting and mysterious Amazon rainforest, you hear chattering monkeys in the distance. You walk along for about 10 minutes and notice it is very warm and humid even though you are in plenty of shade. The pack you are carrying is starting to get a little bit heavier and you wish you were back in the hotel swimming pool. Then, out of nowhere, you hear a high-pitched scream behind you. At first you think it is a wild monkey or bird, but then you realize that it is only your friend Jennie, an environmental engineer.

"Eeeeek, who's wasting water!?" She yells as you notice everyone looking confused. But before anyone has time to answer, a warm rain begins to pour furiously from the sunny sky.

"It's raining, and our supplies are starting to get wet!" Robert, a civil engineer, cries out from the back of the group. You quickly realize you need a shelter that is easy to build and can be taken with you. What can you use? How will you built it? You have no umbrellas here!

Assume you have the following materials and develop a design for your shelter!

  • big waterproof tarp
  • huge Amazon leaves
  • rope
  • wood

(Refer to the associated activities Home, Sweet Home! and Built to Last? Designing Experiments to Test Jungle Shelters for more hands-on design challenges to add on to this lesson).

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

None for this lesson.

Associated Activities

  • Home, Sweet Home! - Students use wax paper shaped as leaves and kite string to build shelters to protect them from the rain. The materials they use represent real-life materials such as those mentioned in the lesson (huge jungle plant leaves and rope).
  • Built to Last? Designing Experiments to Test Jungle Shelters - Student teams complete the engineering design process by constructing and testing their designs.


Worksheets: Have each student group complete the associated activity worksheets. Review their answers to gauge their depth of comprehension.

Reflection Discussion: Ask the students: How well did your shelter designs perform during the durability and waterproof tests? How might you improve your designs? Is there a better test method than the one you used? What might be some design flaws in your own homes? If so, how might you improve them?


© 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 NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: June 24, 2019


Free K-12 standards-aligned STEM curriculum for educators everywhere.
Find more at TeachEngineering.org