How to integrate engineering into core subjects

Engineering is inherently linked to the core subjects of the curriculum. Once a problem has been identified, science provides the conceptual knowledge and enquiry skills needed for engineers to explore solutions and test ideas. Maths gives engineers the means to take measurements, gather data and present the results of any testing. And English enables problems and solutions to be communicated to a wider audience – customers, sponsors and fellow engineers.  

Below are resources and suggestions to help primary teachers integrate engineering into the core curriculum subjects.  




Introduce engineering by studying how engineers have used knowledge of areas like materials to create tyres, or understanding of air resistance and animals to design products like hang gliders or the bullet train, or how the hooks on burdock burrs inspired the invention of velcro.

  • STEM Learning’s Born To Engineer teaching resource highlights how engineers have taken design principles used in nature to create their own innovative products 
  • Primary Science Education Consultancy’s ‘Scientists Across the Curriculum’ document includes several engineers in their suggestions.  
  • The Primary Science Teaching Trust’s book, ‘Standing On the Shoulders of Giants’, contains resources for studying influential engineers. For example, a resource looking at how John Macadam, Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry worked and how their ideas developed from the scientific understanding of the time, but also looking at how this knowledge has evolved since to the present day.

Children can also apply their own knowledge and skills in design tasks. For example, after learning about electricity and switches, challenge children to create a flood alarm which will raise an alarm once the container is full. Or, after learning about what plants need to grow and stay healthy, ask children to design a way of transporting water from a tank to a selection of growing plants. These projects and activities make science relevant and engaging for the children and help them to broaden and deepen their understanding of key concepts and skills.  

Try one of these engineering challenges linked to the primary curriculum for science:  



Many areas of maths, especially those involving measurement, statistics and geometry can be taught using an engineering context. This ensures learning is more than basic numeracy, as children get to develop their mathematical understanding by working from contexts that are relevant and make sense to them. 

Whilst there are many resources requiring children to apply key maths knowledge and skills in science or DT lessons linked to engineering, at present there are none that directly link engineering to maths lessons.  

Here is a selection of resources with strong maths links:: 

Girl Thinking


Writing about science challenges

The easiest way to link English with engineering is to ask children to write about something they have designed or invented as part of their science work.

Students could write:

  • An explanation – non-fiction writing explaining how their design/invention works in a detailed but simple way.  
  • Instructions – explaining how to use the design/invention.  
  • Persuasive writing – either a letter or an advertisement to persuade people to support or purchase their design/invention.  

Asking children to write about their own designs means they are familiar with the subject they are writing about; they have an interest in the subject they are writing about and the subject is more likely to be linked to their own experiences and lives. This should increase children’s engagement and improve the quality of the writing produced.

Scribblebot 3

Writing for an audience

One way to further enhance engagement and writing quality is to add an audience for their writing.  

  • Each year, Primary Engineer holds the Leaders Award competition, asking primary school children from as young as 3 years old: ‘If you were an engineer, what would you do?’. It invites children to think about a problem they would like to solve. Children interview an engineer face to face, digitally or as part of Primary Engineer’s live interview series. After the interview they are encouraged to look for problems they can solve, draw and annotate a solution to it and add a letter to an engineer explaining why it should be built - detailing and explaining their ideas, and using persuasive techniques to appeal to the engineer judges. All entries are read and given a grade by engineering professionals, with 2 winners selected for each age group. 
  • The EngineerGirl website hosts an annual contest dealing with engineering and its impact on our world. Although an American competition, children from the UK are welcome to enter, with primary school children from 8 years up falling into the ‘Elementary School’ category. Past competitions have focused on how engineering can help different areas such as learning and endangered animals. The focus of the 2023 contest was on how female and/or non-white engineers have contributed to or can enhance engineering’s great achievements. The format of entries varies and has included a short story, persuasive writing or a report. 
  • A New Revolution’ resources link to electricity, design and aspects of literacy. Children learn about how many objects use motors to improve their usefulness. Looking at a variety of objects they compare their features and then take on the role of an entrepreneur and invent something which makes life easier for someone. They then pitch their concept to investors, devise an advert and use persuasive argument to convince others of the benefits of their inventions. Although there is no ‘official’ audience, this could be made into a school competition, with the judging panel being made up of parents, governors or even the children themselves.
Racing Cars

Writing biographies

When it comes to writing biographies, it makes sense to write about somebody linked to their learning in another curriculum area – basing a biography on an engineer linked to the topic being studied in science not only helps to develop any key writing skills needed for this genre, but also deepens their understanding of how scientific knowledge can be used to solve problems, what engineering is and how engineers work.

Primary Science Education Consultancy’s document, ‘Scientists Across the Curriculum’, includes engineers in their suggestions for links to the science curriculum which can be used as the subject for a biography. 

Whereas researching many biographies often relies solely on the use of internet searches, researching the work of engineers can be performed in a range of other ways:

These could be face-to-face or held digitally. Ideas for interviewees are:

  • Members of the children’s families and wider community. These are a much-underused resource which often includes a wide range of engineering disciplines and people with diverse backgrounds. Send out an email to parents or local colleges and universities, or look into businesses in the local area.
  • STEM ambassadors. Real-life examples of engineers and engineering who will visit your school.

Other reference materials:

Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom - features the work of some past engineers.

Science at Work - Primary Science Teaching Trust – features videos and printable pdfs on the work of some current engineers.

A Scientist Just Like Me – Primary Science Teaching Trust – features printable pdfs on the work of some current engineers.


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

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