Engineering in Nature

The activity today comes from me, April, as many of you know I am the founder of Tree House Learning and was its first Forest School leader.  I am not in the woods as much now due to the demands of running the business but I love these types of problem solving ideas.  It is always fascinating to see what the children come up with and no matter how many groups of children I ask to accept the same challenge I see a different result every time.

The Stick Challenge

This activity will need to take place outdoors and preferably in a place with access to a number of loose parts, sticks, logs, rocks etc.  Remember that although it may seem that these loose parts are not important they all have their own roles to play in the ecosystem so should be left in place when you are done.  Depending on the age of your children and the challenge you choose you may want to bring a roll of twine and a pair of scissors.


Now set a challenge for your child and let them get to work on their engineering skills.  Allow them to make mistakes, try things out, have to redesign and try again.  You may be astounded by what they produce and learn.  Remember it is not the end result that matters it is the thinking, trialing and learning in the process that is the goal of this activity.  Some examples of challenges are below:



  • Can you build a structure that can hold you at least 6 inches off of the ground?  Now can you build one that is strong enough to hold all of us at least 6 inches off the ground?
  • How tall can you make a tower of sticks using only sticks?
  • Using only what you find lying around can you create a fence that can keep out ants?  Beetles?  Mice?  Foxes?  Deer?
  • Is it possible to make an inverted stick pyramid?  One where the smallest sticks are on the bottom and the largest are on the top?  How will you make sure that the stick you are adding is larger than the one below it?
  • Can you make a den, using only sticks, large enough for a hedgehog to snuggle in?  Or one big enough for an adult to stand in?


Good luck, have fun and please don’t forget to post us your photos of your stick challenges on our Facebooktwitter and/or instagram pages.

Keep getting outside everyone!

All the best,


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