Optional Teaching Supplies

Materials for this Unit

To obtain kit materials, visit our online store to purchase a kit that includes materials for up to 30 learners.

Each unit includes a letter to send home with student for materials donation for the unit.  Click here to download a copy of this letter in Spanish.

Additional Storybooks for Classroom Use

Storybooks introduce each unit with the tale of a child somewhere around the world who solves a problem through engineering. The books integrate literacy and social studies into the unit and illustrate for students the relevance of STEM subjects. 

Explore the Lessons

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

What is Technology? / Grade 4 / Worcester, MA

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Extension Lessons

What are Extension Lessons?

Extension Lessons use EiE activities as a springboard to more directly reinforce other curricular concepts.

View all Extension Lessons »

Emily and her family live on a station (ranch) in the Australian outback. Emily loves the sheep her family raises, but filling their water trough each day is one of her least favorite chores. When she puts off filling the trough to go ride her horse, Flash, she gets in big trouble with her mum. Then Emily’s neighbor, Pete, a retired electrical engineer, gives Emily the idea for an alarm system that will remind her when the sheep need water. Can Emily engineer a waterproof, reliable alarm system and prove to her family that she takes her chores seriously?

Download a PDF of our storybook illustrations.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
A Reminder for Emily / Grade 5 / American Canyon, CA
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EiE - An Alarming Idea: Designing Alarm Circuits - Lesson 1

Reflection Questions

Cerissa pauses at various points in the story and poses questions to her students. What does she achieve with these different types of questions?

Cerissa asks questions that connect the story to her students’ everyday lives, review key points, and assess the experiences students have had with electrical circuits.

  • Cerissa helps her students connect to the feelings of the storybook character Emily when she asks, “How many of you have chores at home?” (0:58) and “How do you feel when you know you were supposed to do something and your parents find out you didn’t?” (2:29)
  • Cerissa asks her students to recall important points in the story when she asks, “What was Emily supposed to do?” (1:51) and “Who are Sarah and Pete?” (2:05)
  • Cerissa does a quick assessment of prior knowledge when she asks, “How many of you have had a chance ever to work with electrical circuits?” (3:09)

What strategies do you see Cerissa use to help her students complete the Engineering Design Process handout?

To make sure students understand her expectations and proceed with confidence, Cerissa breaks the work into several steps.

  • First, Cerissa puts a copy of the worksheet on the overhead projector and models how to thoroughly answer the first two questions with complete sentences. (4:23)
  • Cerissa has groups of students work together to find evidence in the text for the final three steps in the Engineering Design Process. (5:16)
  • Finally, Cerissa brings the whole group back together to review the responses they came up with. (5:36)
A Reminder for Emily / Grade 4 / Lawrence, MA
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EiE - An Alarming Idea: Designing Alarm Circuits Lesson 1

Reflection Questions

How does George adapt EiE’s “What is Technology” prep lesson?

George makes some changes to the lesson to better connect it to the content of the electrical engineering unit and to reinforce the distinction between technology and natural objects.

  • Although the guide suggests placing simple technologies like plastic spoons and scissors in the mystery bags, George includes items that students will explore in the unit, such as alligator clips, batteries and mini solar panels. (2:45)
  • George places a vial of soil in one mystery bag so that his students have the opportunity to investigate and discuss a “non-technology.” (3:45)

How do the EiE handouts help students solidify their knowledge after completing the reading assignment?

The EiE handouts reinforce both the engineering content and the new vocabulary presented in the storybook.

  • When working on EDP handout 1-6 B, students reflect on all of the steps of the Engineering Design Process that Emily went through to solve her problem. (8:43)
  • The vocabulary handout 1-4 B helps reinforce the meaning of any new words that the students encountered while reading. (9:40)

Students think like electrical engineers as they engage in an electricity scavenger hunt and think about the energy transformations that occur within electrical appliances they see daily.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
It's Electric / Grade 5 / American Canyon, CA
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EiE - An Alarming Idea: Designing Alarm Circuits - Lesson 2

Reflection Questions

What does Cerissa do to introduce the idea that electricity can be transformed into light, sound, heat, or movement?

Cerissa builds student knowledge step by step, from thinking about what technologies do to organizing their functions based on energy transformation.

  • First, Cerissa introduces the idea of energy being transformed when she has students use the handout to describe how various everyday technologies use electricity. (1:53)
  • As students share the technologies they came up with, Cerissa posts each one on an index card and lists what types of energy the object produces. (3:02)
  • Cerissa then asks students to help her sort the technologies into groups based on how they transform electricity. (4:57)
  • Finally, Cerissa creates a large chart that highlights the different forms of energy transformation. (5:49)

In what ways does Lesson 2 prepare students for the challenge to come?

Lesson 2 provides important background knowledge that deepens students understanding and appreciation of electricity.

  • By thinking about how their lives might be different without electricity, students consider its role in their own lives as well as in Emily’s. (0:57)
  • The activity about the transformation of electricity helps students preview how electricity will be used to ring a buzzer and turn on a light in their circuits. (6:07)
It's Electric / Grade 4 / Lawrence, MA
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EiE - An Alarming Idea: Designing Alarm Circuits Lesson 2

Reflection Questions

How do the activities in this lesson build an understanding that the technologies that we use every day use and transform electrical energy?

The activities call on students to reflect on personal experience, analyze a common electrical technology, and observe the transformations that occur.

  • George starts by having students share items they have in their own homes that use electrical energy to work. (0:57)
  • George further challenges his student to name any other forms of energy (light, sound, movement, heat) that might be produced by the technology they chose. (2:42)
  • Finally, George leads an activity where students identify and discuss all the forms of energy that are produced by an electric refrigerator. (6:05)

What activity did George add at the end of the lesson to help students identify the ways that electrical technologies can transform energy?

George provides actual electrical technologies for students to observe and analyze in terms of energy transformation.

  • One group of students uses their senses to observe the mechanical, sound, and heat energy outputs that are produced by an electric pencil sharpener. (8:30)
  • Students in another group observe the heat, light, and mechanical energy outputs from a motorized model of the sun and the moon. (9:00)

Students perform controlled experiments to identify conductors and insulators, and students practice drawing schematic diagrams.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Representing Circuits / Grade 5 / American Canyon, CA
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EiE - An Alarming Idea: Designing Alarm Circuits - Lesson 3

Reflection Questions

How does Cerissa use the classroom document camera to help visual learners understand key points of the lesson?

Visual leaners benefit by seeing small items and images enlarged on the screen and watching Cerissa’s demonstrations as she explains concepts.

  • To help students identify different items that come in the kit, Cerissa displays the bulb holder and its two important contact points. (1:01)
  • To bring home the point that everyone draws the items in a circuit differently, Cerissa displays four individual pages and compares the way each student represented the battery. (2:14)
  • When Cerissa is demonstrating how the switch works, everyone is able to see her open and closes the circuit by shifting the metal bar. (3:58)

How does the study of schematic diagrams in Lesson 3 deepen student understanding of electrical circuits and electrical engineering?

The schematic representation of electrical wiring helps students easily and clearly analyze all the parts of the circuit and how they work together.

  • When drawing their own schematic diagrams, students use the same set of symbols and straight lines that focus attention on the structure of the circuit. (3:21)
  • Reading a schematic diagram to create a specific circuit forces students to pay attention to the function and sequence of elements in the circuit. (4:29)
  • By using schematic diagrams, students get a taste for the way groups of electrical engineers communicate with each other. (5:19)   
Representing Circuits / Grade 4 / Lawrence, MA
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EiE - An Alarming Idea: Designing Alarm Circuits Lesson 3

Reflection Questions

What steps does George take to help his students become familiar with the symbols of schematic diagrams?

Before being asked to create a schematic circuit diagram, George’s students are given various opportunities to practice translating pictures into symbols.

  • George starts by presenting a sketch of a battery, a light bulb, and a wire and has students cover each picture with the appropriate schematic symbol. (1:40)
  • Next, George has students practice drawing the six schematic diagram symbols on handout 3-1. (5:18)
  • Finally, students draw a complete schematic diagram based on pictures. (6:32)

Where do you see references to the storybook providing context for the day’s engineering activities?

George and the students refer to the storybook as evidence to support the ideas they are sharing.

  • When asked why someone might need both a buzzer and a light to go off at the same time, one student uses the story of Emily’s friend Pete working in his shed as an example. (5:54)
  • At the end of the lesson, George suggests sending a letter to Emily that explains the solution they come up with so that she can enjoy the summer riding her horse. (8:28)

Students apply their knowledge of conductors, insulators, and electrical engineering as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve an alarm circuit.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing an Alarm Circuit / Grade 5 / American Canyon, CA
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EiE - An Alarming Idea: Designing Alarm Circuits - Lesson 4

Reflection Questions

Before moving on to the Lesson 4 challenge, what does Cerissa do to help her students consolidate their knowledge of electrical circuits and engineering?

Cerissa conducts a 10-minute “Brain Spill” activity in which students use a graphic organizer that helps them review key ideas from the unit.

  • The Brain Spill gives students a chance to quickly record everything they know about a certain topic. (0:32)
  • Students have a chance to check their own understanding by putting check marks next to ideas they have that are also shared by others. (1:14) 
  • Students walk away with a personalized set of notes that highlight the content that was discussed by the class. (2:46)

In this lesson, what are the four steps involved in creating and evaluating schematic diagrams?

In this lesson, pairs of students work first as electrical engineers and then as contractors as they create and share schematic diagrams.

  • First, each pair of students draws a large schematic diagram showing how their alarm circuit is assembled. (6:04)
  • After switching diagrams with another pair of students, each team tries to build the circuit represented by the other team. (7:39)
  • After building the circuits, each partner group provides feedback about which parts of the diagram were clear and which needed improvement. (8:24)
  • Finally, groups work with the circuits they originally diagrammed and have the chance to test and improve their own switch connection points to light the bulb. (8:46)
Designing an Alarm Circuit / Grade 4 / Lawrence, MA
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EiE - An Alarming Idea: Designing Alarm Circuits Lesson 4

Reflection Questions

What do you notice about the way George introduces the lesson?

George’s introduction focuses students’ attention on the lesson’s purpose and how students will benefit from it.

  • George provides context for the lesson by reminding students of the problem that Emily is trying to solve. (0:30)
  • Next, George uses the smartboard to review what students have already learned about electrical engineering. (0:47)
  • Finally, George previews the goals of today’s activities and posts the guiding question for today’s work. (1:31)

How is each step of the Engineering Design Process represented by the activities in the lesson?

Students create several different products—worksheets, life-size schematic diagrams, and hand-built circuits—as they work their way through the Engineering Design Process.

  • For the Imagine step, each student works independently to sketch out a schematic that represents their own solution. (4:24)
  • For the Plan step, children agree as a team on one idea and make a life-size schematic diagram showing how it will be constructed. (6:04)
  • For the Create step, teams build the circuit systems they planned by placing the circuit materials directly onto their schematic diagrams. (7:30)