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Building Big & Small
Building Big & Small is an 8-session series in Big Learning's KID (Knowledge-Infused Design) after-school curriculum. It's designed for children in grades 2 through 4. Sessions alternate between building temporary, large structures in small groups (3-4 children), and building tabletop-sized structures individually. Children take the small projects home to keep.

Famous memorials and architects
kick off a lesson on
paneled structures

Packed with Big Learning: Kids release their inner builder in this creative hands-on series. Each child will build toy-size structures that they take home for imaginative play. They'll also collaborate with other kids on full-size temporary play structures such as tipis and forts and then play in their structures! Kids will stretch their understanding of what makes structures strong, learn and apply geometry and measurement concepts, and learn new history, vocabulary, and craft skills.

No "cookie cutter" projects: Every task engages children's creative energy. Every child's project is unique. Design choices pull kids into the learning experience.


Supports school and life success: Every project pulls together wide-ranging knowledge and skills. For example, our Tipi project teaches students about the Plains tribes that used tipis, the difference between physical and political maps that show the Great Plains region, the geometry of cones that make tipi covers, and more. Most importantly, every session builds life skills including problem solving, persistence, creativity, artistic competence, communication, and teamwork.

A tipi built by
students in
Building Big & Small
Highly engaging: Kids can't resist our combination of real-world learning and design-based curriculum. Every task engages children's creative energy, and every child's project is unique. Students use great tools and materials, including wood dowels, craft foam, and foil. Students see the relevance of new knowledge because they put it to work immediately.

Designed with busy staff in mind: Projects use materials right out of the box. Our Teacher's Guide maps out every lesson in detail. Learning goals are right up front, and background information, teaching strategies, and assembly instructions are right where you need them. Full-color posters, student instructions, and take home sheets make for lessons that stick.

Typical Class Session

1. Field Trip (5-10 minutes): The class begins with a real world-based discussion of the structures and building principles for that day. For example, before building castles, kids analyze photos of castles that are still standing around the world and discuss the function of castle parts.
2. New building techniques (5 minutes): Next, we demonstrate the techniques students will use to build their structures.
3. Building, playful testing, and problem solving (40 minutes): Kids build their structures and test them by playing with them or inside them. They are guided in finding solutions to design challenges and building creative enhancements.
4. Cleanup (5 minutes)
5. What did we figure out? (5-10 minutes): Students share their work and discuss what they learned while they worked.
6. Going home: Teachers go over the take-home materials, which include a review of the day's concepts and vocabulary, plus additional activities and resources for students to share with their families.

Session What we make Big Learning
1 Big: Forest Lean-to. An emergency shelter any kid can build Characteristics of a good shelter; warm-blooded animals; heating small spaces
2 Small: Green Roof Building. Kids design and build a frame structure and plant grass seeds on a terrarium rooftop Framing and sheathing; evaporation and condensation; conditions for sprouting seeds
3 Big: Tipis. Students construct tipis, measure and cut out tipi covers, and decorate the covers with authentic Native American symbols Geometry of circles and cones; Great Plains geography; types of maps; history and functional advantages of tipi-type dwellings
4 Small: Toy Castles. Students build simple castles with authentic architectural features History of castles as fortificaitons; constructing pulleys and hinged mechanisms
5 Big: Car Frames. Students build a rolling car chassis with working steering wheels. Strength characteristics of triangles; wheel and axle construction; parts of an automobile.
6 Small: Apartment Interiors. Students design and build scale models of new interiors for "gutted" apartments, including scale size furniture. Scale and proportion concepts; measuring; real-life sizes of common objects and rooms; mathematical "nets" to make 3-D folded shapes.
7 Big: Art Chair Backrest. Kids construct a comfy backrest seat. Three ways to build for strength; triangular prisms; art in structures.
8 Small: Make a Building Set. Students make sets of triangle and square building pieces to take home. Making structures from polygons; using tessellations; constructing equilateral triangles; combining art and architecture; famous modern monuments.