Paper Houses

While The Three Little Pigs may offer a cautionary tale against building houses out of insubstantial materials, students in the seventh-grade relied on their design skills and problem solving abilities to construct remarkably durable houses out of paper.
The idea for the project came from seventh-grade science teacher Jen Schuchman, who proposed it to Makerspace Coordinator Lia Carruthers. "I thought it would be a great project for the makerspace. It involves engineering design, problem solving and collaboration, and it helps students understand that there can be many solutions to the same problem." Carruthers agreed and incorporated the project into her seventh-grade makerspace class. 
During their weekly makerspace class, students worked in teams to design and build houses that could support the weight of two full-sized bricks (approximately 10 pounds) or more. The houses needed to have an angled roof, two windows and a door that opened and closed. For building materials, students were given only a piece of cardstock that measured 11x14 inches, glue and three feet of masking tape.
The project was completed in only four class periods, with an additional class to test the houses. The students spent the first class brainstorming design ideas. Then then they built a prototype from paper and once the prototype was approved, began constructing the homes out of cardstock. They finished up the unit with a written paragraph reflecting on what they had learned from the project.
According to Makerspace Coordinator Lia Carruthers, "Many of the houses far exceeded the criteria, supporting as much as 20 pounds.The students were shocked at how well their designs performed. That was a great confidence booster, and my belief is that now they will be more willing to trust their ideas and to try out new ideas as well."
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.