Asee peer logo

Designing a Toy Box Organizer: A PictureSTEM Curriculum Module (Curriculum Exchange)

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Curriculum Exchange

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.477.1 - 26.477.2



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Kristina Maruyama Tank Iowa State University

visit author page

Kristina M. Tank is an Assistant Professor of Science Education in the School of Education at Iowa State University. She currently teaches undergraduate courses in science education for elementary education majors. As a former elementary teacher, her research and teaching interests are centered around improving elementary students’ science and engineering learning and increasing teachers’ use of effective STEM instruction in the elementary grades. With the increased emphasis on improved teaching and learning of STEM disciplines in K-12 classrooms, Tank examines how to better support and prepare pre-service and in-service teachers to meet the challenge of integrating STEM disciplines in a manner that supports teaching and learning across multiple disciplines. More recently, her research has focused on using literacy to support scientific inquiry, engineering design, and STEM integration.

visit author page


Tamara J Moore Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Tamara J. Moore, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education and Director of STEM Integration in the INSPIRE Institute at Purdue University. Dr. Moore’s research is centered on the integration of STEM concepts in K-12 and postsecondary classrooms in order to help students make connections among the STEM disciplines and achieve deep understanding. Her work focuses on defining STEM integration and investigating its power for student learning.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Designing Toy Boxes: A PictureSTEM Curriculum Module (Curriculum Exchange)Description of the ProjectThe PictureSTEM Project is developing an instructional module at each grade level, K-5, whichemploys engineering/technology and literary contexts to integrate science and mathematicscontent instruction in meaningful and significant ways. These curricular units go through anextensive design research cycle to ensure a quality product.Description of the Designing Toy Boxes UnitThis 5-day unit is geared towards the early elementary grades (K-2) and consists of five pairs ofliteracy and STEM integration activities, each of which requires approximately 30 minutes ofclass time. In the Designing Toy Boxes module, students explore the mathematics concept ofmeasurement and science concept of physical properties before applying them in an engineeringdesign challenge, which is to design a new and improved toy box organizer for a toy company.Outline of the module follows:Lesson 1 – This lesson introduces the students to the problem of not have a standard unit ofmeasure through having them try to make a treasure map marked out in paces. They learn thatdifferent people’s paces are different and so finding the treasure is difficult. Students are asked topropose a solution to getting everyone to the same place. Students are read the book How Big isa Foot? to reinforce the need for a common way of measuring.Lesson 2 – Lesson 2 has students measure a common item, such as their desk, with differentarbitrary objects focusing on the different results obtained. Next, students create a common or“standard” measuring tool as a class that they will use to measure the same fixed distance inorder to see how using the same tool produces similar results. Students are introduced to thestory, Measuring Penny, in which the main character decides to use her dog Penny as the subjectfor her measurement homework using standard and non-standard units.Lesson 3 – The book, Living Color, explores different animals by their color. As students learnabout all of these brightly colored species, this book also sets the stage for sorting objects usingthe physical property of color. Students are then introduced to the science concept of physicalproperties as they learn about how objects can be sorted in a number of different ways.Lesson 4 – Leo Cockroach Toy Tester introduces the students to the idea that engineers test theirproducts. The STEM activity for this lesson helps to prepare students for the design challenge byasking them to think like engineers while they test the materials that they will be using in theirtoy box designs.Lesson 5 – The book, Too Many Toys, sets the context by telling the story of Spencer who hastoo many toys to keep them cleaned up. Students then design, build and test an organizationsystem for a toy box. After designing their new toy box, students will have the opportunity togive their directions and measurements to another group who will pretend to be the toy companyand will attempt to build their toy box design.

Tank, K. M., & Moore, T. J. (2015, June), Designing a Toy Box Organizer: A PictureSTEM Curriculum Module (Curriculum Exchange) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23815

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015