ALEX Lesson Plan


Solutions from Nature, Protection

You may save this lesson plan to your hard drive as an html file by selecting "File", then "Save As" from your browser's pull down menu. The file name extension must be .html.

  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Deborah LoBue
System: St Clair County
School: Springville Elementary School
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34700


Solutions from Nature, Protection


This is one of three lessons that can be taught alone, or as the third part of a series, "Solutions from Nature."  In this lesson, students examine outer parts of animals that provide protection (turtles, crabs, pill bugs, snails, etc.).  They choose from different materials to construct a “helmet” that can protect an egg from breaking if it is dropped.    

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
5 ) Design a solution to a human problem by using materials to imitate how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs (e.g., outerwear imitating animal furs for insulation, gear mimicking tree bark or shells for protection).*

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L4.3: Organisms interact and are interdependent in various ways, including providing food and shelter to one another. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs are met. Some interactions are beneficial; others are detrimental to the organism and other organisms.

NAEP Statement::
L4.4: When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others die or move to new locations.

NAEP Statement::
L4.7: Different kinds of organisms have characteristics that enable them to survive in different environments. Individuals of the same kind differ in their characteristics, and sometimes the differences give individuals an advantage in surviving and reproducing.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function
Disciplinary Core Idea: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Use given materials to design a device that imitates how plants and/or animals survive, grow and/or meet their needs.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • materials
  • design
  • solution
  • human problem
  • imitate
  • external parts
  • survive
  • needs
  • insulation
  • mimicry
  • camouflage
  • protection
  • ask
  • plan
  • imagine
  • create
  • improve
Students know:
  • How plants use their external parts to survive, grow and meet their needs.
  • How animals use their external parts to survive, grow and meet their needs.
  • People can imitate how plants and animals survive and grow to help us solve a human problem.
Students are able to:
  • Design a device that attempts to solve a human problem.
  • Use materials to imitate external structures of plants and animals.
Students understand that:
  • The shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their function.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Organisms, STC
Wild Feet, ETA/hand2mind

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.1.5- Match an environmental situation with an appropriate human action (e.g., wearing a jacket when it is cold; animals growing a thick coat during the winter; wearing protective gear like a turtle has a shell).

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will:

  • identify animals with protective coverings.
  • construct a model of a helmet for an egg.
  • test the helmets and evaluate their effectiveness.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Scientific & Engineering Practices:

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Structure and function
 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

91 to 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Chart Paper or Chalk/Dry Erase Board

2 raw eggs for demonstration

2 hardboiled eggs for demonstration

2 zipper sandwich bags

3-4 small clear plastic containers (such as disposable food storage containers)

Photographs, books, or digital images of different turtles, a pill bug, snail, crab, armadillo, and any other animals with similar protective coverings

Hardboiled eggs for student investigation (one per student or group, plus a few extra in case)

*Optional, but recommended since you are working with young students: Plastic eggs (one per student, same size as regular eggs), as students may need something to build their models around and practice with before the final test with the hardboiled eggs

Various materials to construct helmets with such as…
(Consider that students will be selecting materials and may have other suggestions than those listed below.  If your students are in groups, think about how many projects will be constructed and the quantity of materials you might need to have on hand.)

  • Cardboard or poster board
  • Small empty boxes
  • Plastic cups, bottles, and containers
  • Popsicle sticks  
  • Drinking straws
  • Toothpicks
  • Sponges
  • Foam scraps
  • Balloons
  • Paper towels
  • Cotton balls
  • Old washrags, fabric, or felt scraps
  • Bubble wrap
  • Rubber bands
  • Yarn
  • Glue sticks
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors

Copies of Student Record Sheet (see attached file)

Technology Resources Needed:

Computer and projection system to show the following YouTube video:

This is a 4-minute video of a boy’s science project demonstrating the effectiveness of different helmets.


It will be helpful if students have some prior knowledge (through a previous study, read aloud, or research activity) about forces and gravity.  If you have previously completed the Solutions from Nature, Insulation lesson in this series, students may apply some of the same design principles while looking for a different outcome (impact protection rather than temperature protection).  


This lesson can be adjusted if students need additional time to construct their models.  It can also be divided into two or three shorter sessions if needed.  

**Before the lesson, you may want to hard boil the test eggs used in the student investigation.  They will allow young students to examine the egg after the test, and they can be peeled, rinsed, and eaten after the experiment so they don’t go to waste!     

Engage:  Pose introductory questions and create interest. 

  1. If you completed the other “Solutions from Nature” lessons, remind students that their previous design problems looked to nature for ways to insulate from the cold temperatures and provide stability to buildings. 
  2. Tell the students that today’s design problem is about protection, and they will also be looking for more ideas from nature. 
  3. Break one raw egg into a plastic container.  Place the shells in the second container.  Ask students to describe the inside and outside parts of the egg by looking at them and touching them. 
  4. Show students a second raw egg and ask, “What would happen if I dropped this egg off the edge of the table?”  Put the egg in a zipper sandwich bag and demonstrate.   
  5. Show students the hardboiled egg; crack, peel, cut in half, and place in a third plastic container. Let students examine and describe the hardboiled egg. 
  6. Show students a second hardboiled egg, and let them predict what will happen if you drop it off the table.  Demonstrate and discuss what happened.  What is the purpose of the egg shell?  What happens if there is too much force on the shell?  Is there a way to protect the egg shell and keep it from breaking?  Can you think of a way that we try to protect our bodies from breaking or getting injured?  [shoes, seatbelts, armor, shields, helmets, goggles, kneepads, shin guards, football pads, etc.]  List these on the chart paper or board. 

Explore: Have students look for connections to nature. 

  1. Remind students that we can get ideas from nature to solve our problems.  Show students a photograph or digital image of a turtle.  Ask how the turtle protects itself from predators.  Ask if students can name other animals that have protective coverings (crab, snail, pill bug, armadillo, porcupines, etc.). 
  2. Display or pass out photographs, book illustrations, or digital images of these animals, and have students note similarities and differences.  Turn and talk with a partner, then share with the group.  What connections can students make between these animals and the protective gear they listed earlier in the lesson?   

Explain: Why is this important?  Define the problem. What design elements need to be considered?  

  1. Show the YouTube video of the boy testing out helmets.
  2. After viewing, point out that this boy was testing the effectiveness of actual helmets, on large melons, from a second story balcony.  This experiment will be a little different—they will test on a smaller object (the egg), from a lower distance (the tabletop), and students will have to design the protective gear themselves. 
  3. Tell the students that today they are going to be engineers—scientists who solve problems.  Today’s problem is: How can we build a protective helmet that will keep the egg from breaking when it falls off the table?  Write this on the chart paper or the board. 
  4. Ask students to suggest ideas for keeping the egg from breaking when it falls.  List important design elements on the chart paper or board.  These might include slowing the egg down when it falls, (decrease speed), having something hard or soft around it (cushion or shock absorption), making sure the egg stays in the helmet (restraint), or whatever else they think of.  Have students think about the protective gear they listed and the animal characteristics they observed.  Have them think about the video they just watched—why did some helmets work better than others at protecting the melon?  Other ideas from nature to suggest—what does a cat do when it lands from a high jump (bend its knees), leaves and dandelion fluff floating (think parachutes), hickory nuts are heavy with a hard shell to protect them when they fall from a tree, but maple seed pods are smaller, lighter, and have the helicopter shape to help them slow down and fall gently. 

Elaborate: Allow students to work alone or in groups to design and create an egg helmet. 

  1. Distribute the Student Record Sheets.  Have them copy the Problem (“Build a helmet that protects the egg when it falls.”) off the board.  Show students the various materials they have to work with, and let students talk about what materials they will choose, writing them in the Materials section of the Record Sheet.   You can allow students to work alone or in pairs—divide them up, or ask if students have a preference.  If you are allowing either option, just make sure you have enough eggs and materials on hand for the number of projects being created.  [***You can break the lesson here, allowing for a separate session to construct the helmets.]
  2. As students begin making their plans, allow them to come and choose materials from the supply table and begin working.  Let them use plastic eggs during the construction phase, to allow them some trial and error without breaking all the hardboiled eggs early!  As they finish the helmets, remind them to complete the Design and Predict portions of the Student Record Sheet.  [***You can break the lesson again here, testing the helmets in a final session.  Some students may need less time and transition to a different activity, some may need more time, some may have glue that needs to dry overnight, etc.]

Evaluate:  Test the student models, compare results, and discuss findings and applications

  1. Make sure the plastic eggs have been replaced with a hardboiled egg and secured in the helmets.  Let partners drop the egg helmets one or two at a time off the table.  They may have to disassemble the models to inspect the eggs.  Have them record what happened on the Results section of their record sheet. 
  2. After all the helmets have been tested, let students think about the Reflect section.  Why did something work well, or not work?  What did you learn about protecting the egg from impact?  Would you change something on your helmet and try it again?  Allow students to share their reflections. 
  3. Conclude by discussing the following questions:  “Which materials provided the best protection?  Did the design of the materials help protect the egg?  How did your designs imitate the objects we examined from nature?  How could we make better protective gear in real life?”  

**Some files will display in a new window. Others will prompt you to download.

Assessment Strategies

  • Observe the students' helmets during the test.  Does the egg break? 
  • Examine the Student Record Sheets.  Did the student include any of the suggested elements of design?  Did the student accurately use pictures and/or words to express the design and test process?  


If students successfully build a helmet that prevents egg breakage on the first attempt, pull them in a small group and discuss how scientists can change one thing (variable) about their experiment to test it in new ways.  Let them propose new ways to test their experiment, such as trying it with a raw egg, or dropping it from a higher location.  Does the egg stay protected?  If not, can you alter your helmet in a way that will protect it with the changed variables?  Allow students to test and recreate their experiment in new ways. 


If students are not able to build a helmet that protects the egg on the first attempt, pull them in a small group to discuss possible solutions.  Discuss the fact that scientists often have to "try, try again" or go "back to the drawing board."  Let them examine and compare their helmets, and then let them pair up with students who made a successful helmet that protected the egg.  Encourage them to talk together, compare the helmets, and propose solutions to re-build and re-test.  Allow students to repeat the experiment, using suggestions from the teacher and peers to adjust their helmets, providing assistance as necessary. 

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.