Planetopia Parcels STEM Challenge

Planetopia Parcels STEM Challenge


Students work individually or in partners/groups against a list of criteria and constraints to create the nonliving surface (geosphere & hydrosphere) of the fictional planet, Planetopia.

If you’re looking to apply learning in landforms, weathering & erosion, plate tectonics & more, this STEM / STEAM challenge is a perfectly engaging way to get the job done joyfully!

The basic premise: 

Students work individually or in partners/groups against a list of criteria and constraints to create the nonliving surface (geosphere & hydrosphere) of the fictional planet, Planetopia.

Check out the video preview to see what is included in this resource:


Note: If you are in a 1:1 classroom, you may prefer the
digital format, compatible with Google Slides ™

Resource includes:

  • NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8
  • Teacher Tips:
    • Links to my 5-part video series on getting started with STEM challenges
    • Materials and timing
    • Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
    • Measuring results
    • Universal STEM Challenge Notes & How to Use Student Handouts
    • Post-design extension activities list
    • Link to a video walk-through of the challenge
  • Student Handouts:
    • Criteria & Constraints List (in color and B&W; editable version provided)
    • Results and Design Analysis (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded) spacing for primary students included in color and and B&W)
    • Discussion Questions (color and B&W)
  • Extension templates
    • Planetopia Surface Features Spotlight
    • Layers of Earth
    • Layers of Earth & Earth’s Atmosphere
    • Rock Notes
    • Rock Cycle
    • Pangaea Activity
    • Process flow map
    • Create & solve math problems based on designs
    • Planetopia Landforms Writing Templates

Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

(Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified. You don’t need to provide all of the following materials. Select a subset and/or add in your own ideas.)

    • Note: The links below are Amazon Affiliate links. Find out more on the disclosure page.
        • Foam board for parcel base
          • ~ 12×12 in. per student
        • Construction paper
        • Pipe cleaners
        • Cardboard scraps
        • Tissue paper
        • Foil
        • Scissors
        • Glue and/or tape
        • Small rocks
        • Raffia, moss, yarn
        • Cotton
        • Design analysis handouts (included in resource)
      • Optional
        • Crayola Model Magic or clay
        • Sequins, beans, pasta, beads
        • Paint
        • Craft sticks
        • Plastic beads
        • Pom poms
        • Felt or fabric scraps
        • Sand Paper
        • Small cups and/or bowls
        • Hot glue gun
        • Rubber bands
        • Paperclips
        • Toothpicks
        • Coffee stirrers
        • Colored sand

Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:

  • Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
  • Helps students develop growth mindset traits like persistence and resilience
  • High levels of student engagement
  • The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)
  • Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.

Each design iteration should be planned for ~60 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. If you add extension activities, you will need to adjust timing accordingly.

This resource is also available in paperless format and in the Mega Bundle. It will soon be also be available in a discounted Planetopia Project bundle.

















If you prefer to purchase on TpT, click here.
Note: any coupon/promo codes for this site will only work on this site. TpT does not have the option for individual stores to offer promo codes.

Preview Music Credit:

“Carefree” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License


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