Climate: The Hot Topic

Through the Race to the Top grant and the Department of Education, Anna Mills (6th grade Science teacher) designed a STEM project for her students to complete. You can find the project here. Please read on to discover how working through the design thinking process while instructing using grade level standards results in high level student engagement and understanding.


It is important that students are able to communicate the difference in climates around the world. Being able to question and evaluate information about climates from a variety of sources is an invaluable skill.

I prompted the students with questions to evoke inquiry such as, “What do we know about the homes that people in other countries around the world live in?” and “How is your house designed to be stable in your climate?” Students were very excited and came to similar conclusions.

Then, I challenged the students to design a house that would keep a human safe in a climate of their choice.  The student groups followed the design thinking process by following the google doc I made which can be found at this link:

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They created empathy for the project, defined their climate, and went through the ideation process to build their houses.

After they built their prototype, we tested those houses - which was very exciting! We used a cotton ball to simulate the human inhabitant. The cotton-ball-human could not get wet and had to stay between 20-30 degrees celsius. Here were the following simulations:



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The students were able to test and analyze how their house stood up to the simulation and discuss redesigns they would implement. They took into account critical feedback from their peers. The students practiced 21st century skills through collaboration with their group and critical thinking to create and redesign their house. This was an incredibly fun challenge!

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