Earth Day is the perfect time for the New Earth City STEM / STEAM challenge activity, but any other time of the year will do!
The basic premise:
It is Earth Day, and the year is 2035. Earth has become overcrowded. The students are part of a pioneering crew tasked with setting up the first city (New Earth City) on Planetopia, a fictional name for a recently discovered Earth-like planet in a distant solar system. Part of the mission is to set up the city to prevent or address the problems we are having on Earth so we don’t repeat our errors on our new home planet.
This challenge is best done in teams or partners due to time and space constraints.
Note: The version you are viewing is compatible with Google Slides ™.
- 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 Slides
- Post-design extension activities list
- Link to a video walk-through of the challenge
- Student Slides:
- Criteria & Constraints List
- Results and Design Analysis
- Discussion Questions
- Extension templates
- Process flow maps
- Create & solve math problems based on designs
- Measuring & Classifying Triangles from New Earth City
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.
- 12 x 12 in. cardboard or foam board (serves as a parcel of Planetopia land. Feel free to go larger, but smaller is tough for students to manage)
- Plastic shopping bags (5)
- Construction paper
- Craft sticks (5-10)
- Pipe cleaners (12-24)
- Small Cups
- Water or soda bottle lids
- Clay and/or Foil
- Coffee stirrers
- Rubber bands
- Masking tape (24 -36 in.)
- Design analysis handouts (included in resource)
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.
- Opportunities to practice as many or few of the following math skills as desired and is age-appropriate (details included in product):
- Measurement: sides, angles, and distances
- Shapes: identifying 3-D solids and finding perimeter, area, volume and classifying angles and triangles
- Fractions: Identifying fractions of a whole, and calculating/converting fractions, decimals, and percentages
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 available in printable format. It is also available in the Mega Bundle, and will soon 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.