After reading the story "Dear Mr. Henshaw" by Beverly Cleary, student groups create alarm systems to protect something in the classroom, just as the main character Leigh does to protect his lunchbox from thieves. Students learn about alarms and use their creativity to devise multi-step alarm systems to protect their lockers, desk, pets or classroom door. Note: This activity can also be done without reading the Cleary book.
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 Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.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.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- D. Tools, materials, and skills are used to make things and carry out tasks. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- H. Resources are the things needed to get a job done, such as tools and machines, materials, information, energy, people, capital, and time. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- K. Tools and machines extend human capabilities, such as holding, lifting, carrying, fastening, separating, and computing. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- L. Requirements are the limits to designing or making a product or system. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- D. Requirements for a design include such factors as the desired elements and features of a product or system or the limits that are placed on the design. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- D. When designing an object, it is important to be creative and consider all ideas. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- D. Invention and innovation are creative ways to turn ideas into real things. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- D. Identify and collect information about everyday problems that can be solved by technology, and generate ideas and requirements for solving a problem. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Massachusetts: Science
- 2.1 Identify a problem that reflects the need for shelter, storage, or convenience. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- 2.2 Describe different ways in which a problem can be represented, e.g., sketches, diagrams, graphic organizers, and lists. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- 2.3 Identify relevant design features (e.g., size, shape, weight) for building a prototype of a solution to a given problem. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- 1.1 Identify materials used to accomplish a design task based on a specific property, i.e., weight, strength, hardness, and flexibility. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- The importance of alarm systems and where they are found.
- How to work in teams, with members having different roles.
- Design techniques and construction methods.
- Understanding the importance of cause and effect when designing an alarm.
|To plan and make something in a skillful way.|
Before the Activity
With the Students
- Introduce the topic of alarms to students. Discuss the use of alarms in our daily lives and where they are found. If using the book, "Dear Mr. Henshaw," discuss why Leigh built an alarm.
- Explain to students the engineering design challenge (the goal): To build an alarm system to protect something in the classroom using only the materials provided. For example, build alarms to protect the students' lockers, desks, backpacks, the turtle aquarium, the classroom door, or a window.
- Identify the materials available to the students. Discuss any safety concerns related to the materials being used. Explain that the alarm system must consist of at least three steps, and should use the least amount of materials as possible. Talk about and explain what a design is and why it is important. Explain your criteria for the grading of their designs. NOTE: you may want to begin with a one-step alarm, and make it more challenging by adding steps.
- Divide the class into groups of three or four students each. Direct them to work collaboratively to accomplish the task of building an alarm.
- Ask students to draw on paper the design of their alarm system, including an explanation describing what their alarm does, how it works and materials used.
- Have groups present their final products to the class and explain how they work. Give students time for feedback and suggestions for improvement.
- For what are alarms used?
- Why do we need alarms?
- Where do we find alarms?
- Why did Leigh in "Dear Mr. Henshaw" need an alarm?
- What do most alarms have in common?
- For what reasons might we need an alarm in our classroom?
Cleary, Beverly. Dear Mr. Henshaw. New York, NY: Camelot, 2000.
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University
Last modified: November 26, 2015