How do I involve other teachers?

Engineering touches every aspect of our lives. From health and the environment through to construction and technology, almost everything human-made will have been created by an engineer, to help keep us healthy and safe. 

Children are naturally drawn to engineering. From an early age, children show a desire to question and explore – building tall towers with blocks, floating and sinking objects in puddles and investigating the properties of materials.  

The use of engineering contexts exploits children’s innate curiosity and connects lessons to the real world, making meaningful links to their lives and adding value to their learning. 



How can I get my teachers onboard?

Teachers do not have space in their busy school timetable for anything that does not earn its place by increasing engagement and improving outcomes in key curriculum areas.  

Fortunately, engineering provides hands-on opportunities to apply and reinforce knowledge and skills from a range of subject areas, especially science, maths, IT and design and technology.  

Foster an appreciation of the benefits engineering can bring to children by doing one of the following: 

Hold an Engineering Day

Plan a day to celebrate engineering. An obvious choice for the date would be World Engineering Day which celebrate engineers and engineering on 4th March each year, however, any day will do.  

Choose a theme, e.g. renewable energy or food packaging. Choose a focus for learning, e.g. taking measurements and recording results, or applying knowledge of materials. Keep in mind your school context, the current cohort of children and the school development plan. Look for a theme and focus that will link to children’s lives and provide opportunities to improve a whole school target.  

Book some visitors. STEM ambassadors can help to bring STEM subjects alive, contextualise the curriculum and provide real-life examples of engineers and engineering. Registering and requesting a STEM Ambassador via the website is quick and easy. Once you are signed in you can advertise your event – interested STEM ambassadors will then contact you. Other avenues include contacting local businesses, local secondary schools or local universities. 

Involve parents and families, and wider community. Depending on your theme, they can be invited in to share something, to help in classes or to see children’s work at the end of the day.  

Suggest resources or provide links to recommended resources based around the chosen theme. As a minimum, this should include suggestions/recommendations for EYFS, KS1, LKS2 and UKS2.

Below are some useful starting point for activity ideas with strong links to the curriculum: 

Provide support for staff: time to talk through the activities and/or resources needed. Support may include arranging extra adults.  

Launch the day with an inspiring whole school assembly. Include an introduction to what engineering using a video such as one of these on the STEM Learning website: 

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Lead by example

Run engineering activities in your own class first. In doing so, any snags or issues can be identified and tackled before rolling out to the rest of the school.

Plus, there will be evidence of tangible benefits in engagement and outcomes for children to share with staff.  


Where can teachers start?

There is a wealth of ways engineering can be included in primary school, ranging from those that need very little time and/ or resources, to larger scale projects. Almost all come with teachers’ notes and background information to support those teachers lacking in confidence. 

If you have 15 minutes

Visit Explorify and pop ‘engineering’ into the search box.  

Many activities take just 15 minutes, with little or no prep involved, so are perfect to use at the start or end of the day. Background information is provided, explaining the science behind the activities, as well as ideas for exploring the topics in greater depth. 

Examples include:

  • Moving bridges - Explorify – an ‘Odd One Out’ activity where children’s observation skills are put to the test with these 3 images of moving bridges. 
  • Chi Onwurah? - Explorify – a ‘Who is?’ activity where children are introduced to an engineer and asked to deduce things about her from the photographs shown.

Share a book with an engineering focus with your class. Books such as the ‘Little People, BIG DREAMS’ series cater for children from Early Years upwards. Many are now available as ‘read aloud’ videos making it easier to share the illustrations. 

Books about engineering can be found here:

Girl Thinking

Check out one of the stories on the ‘This Is Engineering’ virtual Museum of Engineering Innovation. It aims to inspire the next generation of engineers by telling the stories of real-life innovations and the differences they are making. For example, Edible plastic - Notpla is the name of a material that aims to significantly reduce plastic waste with a plastic-like material that can naturally biodegrade in weeks.

Discuss a picture, for example, PSTT’s ‘Pictures For Talk’. The use of pictures is inclusive and facilitates high levels of participation. Discussions are open-ended, although children can be supported with carefully chosen questions, for example, ‘How do robots know what to do?’

Meet an engineer through PSTT’s ‘A Scientist Just Like Me’. It consists of a series of short slideshows, each one ‘telling the story’ of a particular engineer or person working in engineering. The slideshows are intended to be used as discussion prompts, guided by a teacher.

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If you have an hour or two

Practical Action Challenges are free science, technology, engineering and maths resources which engage children in real world issues, challenging them to develop their own ingenious solution to problems such as climate change, renewable energy, food security and disaster preparedness. Each challenge is easy to navigate as includes a teacher’s guide to running the challenge, activity sheets, a PowerPoint, a poster and certificates. For example Stop the spread where children design and build a model of a hand washing device and produce associated education materials for a school in Kenya.

I Bet You Didn’t Know… activities from the PSTT link cutting edge research to the primary science curriculum. They can be filtered according to science topic, activity type and age range. Downloading gives you access to the article, the Teacher Guide and any additional files.

For an after-school club

CREST is a scheme that inspires young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers. With no set timetable, projects can start whenever you want, and take as long as needed. Children need to complete eight challenges to achieve a CREST award, and there is a resource library full of activities and challenge packs to choose from, including ‘CREST on a Shoestring’ activities with minimal resources required. All activities come with comprehensive teachers’ notes and or explanatory videos.

Star Awards are perfect for 5-7 year olds who are starting their STEM journey. Activities include trying to make a tea bag for Uncle Astro so he doesn’t get tea leaves floating around in his cup.

SuperStar Awards are most suitable for upper primary students who are looking for a challenge. Activities include designing a bridge that can be used safely by trying different models.

Engineering Our World is a series of eight activities and fact sheets introducing eight famous scientists, engineers and artists as a springboard for group-based engineering problem solving tasks. For example, a fact sheet about Stephanie Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar, is used as a prompt to ask children to create a structure that will be placed over an egg to protect it from a falling tennis ball.

Science Buddies – Engineering Challenges, fun activities to encourage innovation and invention. Many of these challenges use simple materials which makes them easy to do in school or at home. Each challenge comes with an instructional video which highlights the design challenges.

Engineering for Families, a six-week, teacher-led after school club for families. Each week families are encouraged to solve real-world engineering challenges based around 5 engineering disciplines. During the course, families develop their understanding of Engineering and develop their engineering and craft skills. Includes everything needed to deliver the course in school – teacher notes, slides and background information.


Things for children to do at home

Set a home-school design challenge. Choose a problem that will capture children’s interests: preferably a problem they have some experience of.

For example, out-of-date food, smelly sports shoes, losing their reading book or litter in the park. Children should be clear about WHAT the problem is, WHO has the problem and WHY the problem is important. Provide a checklist to help children keep track of criteria you want them to consider when designing a solution. For example, only using recycled materials or renewable energy sources.

Support families to try a challenge from Science Sparks. For example, find out the best material to waterproof a boot. You can find this and loads more activities here: Easy Engineering Projects for Kids.


Written by Tracy Tyrrell, Fellow of the Primary Science Teacher College.

Images reproduced by kind permission of the Primary Science Teaching Trust.