Resources to support engineering in the primary school classroom

The Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) is a charity whose vision is to see excellent teaching of science in every primary classroom in the UK. 

We know that active engagement with engineering in the primary classroom enables children to apply their learning in maths and science to solve problems in creative and exciting ways. Opportunities to explore how things work and find ways of making improvements fosters curiosity, builds resilience and gets the children thinking like engineers, and relating this learning to real-world contexts helps them recognise and appreciate the importance of engineering to all our lives.

PSTT develops resources to support teachers with providing meaningful and engaging science learning experiences for children and Many of these resources enable teachers to bring a range of aspects of engineering into the classroom.



‘Pictures for Talk’ as a stimulus for discussions about engineering

This picture gets the children thinking about the mechanics of how we open a door and is a great starting point for learning about levers. To spark discussion and investigation of mechanical chain reactions, try this picture of someone who is sitting in an armchair having rigged up a series of events to turn on their telly, starting with using a fishing rod.

You could follow this up by creating a chain reaction in your own school – see here for more details. And for a more philosophical discussion about uses of engineering to make our lives easier, have a look at this picture of a robot making popcorn. To view all PSTT’s pictures for talk, click here, and to download a set of 10 click here 


Real-world engineering

Find out how the shape of a building affects its strength with this Paper Towers investigation. Introduced in an easy to follow Starters for Science video, the children are encouraged to think about what they already know about the shapes and strengths of different structures before carrying out an investigation of their own to find out more.  

PSTT’s ‘I bet you didn’t know ….’ series contains many engineering-linked resources that describe cutting edge research with guidance for teachers about how to introduce this to the children to enrich their learning.


Engineering and the climate crisis

You might also want to get the children thinking about engineering solutions to the climate crisis. For some background knowledge and understanding, this article explains how looking closely at nature can provide us with very rewarding engineering solutions, e.g. how termite mounds inspired the design of a natural air conditioning system.

For more ideas for climate science related engineering activities you can do in the classroom, read this piece about a primary school’s project to develop ways of using renewable energy sources to reduce their use of fossil fuels. 


Diversity in engineering

Making visible a diverse range of engineers will help all children develop an identity with engineering, and PSTT has multiple ideas and suggestions for raising awareness of the diversity of people that do engineering. Try A Scientist Just Like Me and use the ‘job type’ filter to find slideshows about people who are engineers. The slideshows are highly accessible for children with a focus on the skills the engineers need rather than the specialist knowledge, what they like about their jobs, and how they make the world a better place.  

Find out more about what structural and civil engineers do in this video and click here for the accompanying activity sheet for children to learn about the two engineers featured. There are further links to related topics and activities, including an information sheet about real engineering projects they have been worked on. Also worth exploring is the resource ‘1001 Inventions’ which brings alive and celebrates the historical contributions of less well-known engineers and scientists from other Eastern cultures. 

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After school engineering clubs

PSTT’s Science and STEM clubsEngineering our World - is a set of eight group-based engineering challenges, validated by the Children’s University.

Each challenge includes ideas for practical activities, plus a supporting fact sheet. 

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Explorify and engineering

Lots of Explorify activities support children to think like engineers and to learn more about the role of engineering in the world around them. For younger children start with Burly Bridges or Unusual Houses. For middle primary aged children, try Mighty Magnets or Moving Propellors, and for the older ones, have a look at Moving Bridges or How Can the Wind Help Us? 

There is also a wealth of engineering support for primary schools from many other organisations in the sector. Click here to download the special engineering issue of PSTT’s termly magazine Why&How? where many of these organisations share their free resources and support for engineering in the primary classroom.

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Written by Ali Eley, Outreach Director, The Primary Science Teaching Trust

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