Updated: Oct 4, 2022
***This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases***
I've been wanting to incorporate our Desk Pets into our lessons. Inspired by the endearing story of Strictly No Elephants, I came up with a fun STEM Challenge for my kids. In this challenge, they will need to build a clubhouse for their desk pets.
If you're not familiar with desk pets as a reward or classroom management tool, I encourage you to check them out. Click here for more information about desk pets.
A Message of Friendship and Inclusion
We love Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev. It's a wonderful and beautifully illustrated story perfect for teaching kindness and inclusivity. Strictly No Elephants tells the story of a boy and his tiny elephant pet excitedly waiting for the pet club meeting on Pet Club Day only to find a huge sign at the door which read "Strictly No Elephants". Heartbroken and disappointed, they walk home only to discover other kids and their pets, such as a girl and her pet skunk, have also been excluded from the club. Together they decide to start their own pet club where all types of pets are welcome.
If you are searching for Strictly No Elephants activities, then try building a pet clubhouse together!
STEM Challenge: A Club House for All
In this STEM challenge, the students will use Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to build a clubhouse for their beloved desk pets. In the story Strictly No Elephants, the children find a treehouse for their pet club, and I decided to challenge them to build their own pet clubhouse higher than ground level (similar to a stilt house).
This STEM activity is perfect for students in elementary grades K through 3rd grade, but it can easily be adapted for preschoolers. My four-year-old took part in this STEM challenge. It also provides an opportunity to discuss inclusion, and strengthen the classroom community.
Science: Children will use what they know about forces, such as gravity and weight, in order to build their structure. Their structure will need a strong foundation and strong support.
Technology: Before beginning our design, we researched ideas by searching on the internet.
Engineering: The kids put the engineering design process into action by designing the pet clubhouse. Then they put it to the test, to check whether it can hold weight.
Math: In this STEM activity, kids can put their mathematical abilities to the test by counting, multiplying, dividing, and even estimating to see how many craft sticks will be needed to complete the project. Children can also notice which geometrical shapes work better for their designs.
We began by reading and discussing the story Strictly No Elephants. Then, we agreed it would be awesome to start our own club for our classroom desk pets where All Are Welcome. I told them that I would love for them to design a clubhouse that is similar to the tree house in the story using the materials we had at hand (craft sticks, glue, and play-doh).
We safely searched the internet for ideas on building the clubhouse. Once they were ready to design, I gave them the STEM Challenge worksheet to begin writing information and drawing their design. The STEM Challenge worksheet and All Are Welcome sign are at the end of this post and are free to download.
After the kids were done creating their designs, it was time to get building. Having colored craft sticks gave them room to get creative. They carefully decided what colors go where and what color pattern they would use for each section. It's fun to watch them at work. Without being instructed, they began by color sorting the craft sticks to make their work easier.
They also had to calculate how many sticks were needed for each side of the structure. We decided to begin with the floor, my kids opted for a rainbow floor pattern. Afterward, they worked on the walls, and then the lovely rainbow roof.
The last steps were to elevate the house ( to achieve the "treehouse look") and build the ladder. This was the most challenging part for them. To elevate the house, they grouped several craft sticks to form four columns. At each end of the craft sticks, they placed play-doh to help balance and keep the house grounded.
First, the house was wobbly and looked like it would eventually fall. More play-doh was added, it helped, but the house was still wobbly. After some more trial and error, we glued crafts sticks to secure one column to another which resulted in a stable structure/clubhouse.
My kids had a blast completing this challenge. They were thrilled by the end result, a clubhouse for their desk pets!
Make sure to get your free STEM Challenge Worksheet and All Are Welcome sign.
Click here to download