Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

The 4th Little Pig - Designing a Hurricane-Proof Roof

Subject Area





The goal of this lesson is for students to use their knowledge of hurricanes to design and build a hurricane-proof roof for Piggy Sue, The Three Little Pig's cousin.  She has just moved to town and she needs a house that will withstand a hurricane. Students will test various materials and designs to determine the best design for her roof.  Students will work in groups and use the engineering design method to design and build their roofs.  Each group will have a budget to purchase materials for their roofs.

This lesson was created as part of the 2016 NASA STEM Standards of Practice Project, a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 3


    Evaluate a design solution (e.g., flood barriers, wind resistant roofs, lightning rods) that reduces the impact of a weather-related hazard.*

    Unpacked Content



    • Merit
    • Claim
    • Problem/solution
    • Design solution
    • Impact
    • Reduce
    • Weather-related hazard


    Students know:
    • Engineers design solutions to reduce the impact of weather related hazards.
    • Problems caused by weather related problems.
    • Humans can not eliminate natural hazards but can take steps to reduce their impacts.
    • Some design solutions are more effective than others.


    Students are able to:
    • Identify impacts of a weather related hazard.
    • Identify the effects of solutions to a problem that reduces the impact of a weather related hazard.
    • Make a claim about a designed solution that reduces the impact of a weather related hazard.
    • Communicate evidence to support the claim about a designed solution that reduces the impact of a weather related hazard.


    Students understand that:
    • There are cause and effect relationships between weather-related hazards and design solutions created to reduce their impact.
    • There are benefits and risks to given solutions created when responding to the societal demand to reduce the impact of a hazard.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Engaging in Argument from Evidence

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect
    Mathematics (2019) Grade(s): 3


    Use various strategies to add and subtract fluently within 1000.

    Unpacked Content



    • Fluently
    • Sum
    • Difference
    • Place value
    • Strategy


    Students know:
    • The relationship between addition and subtraction operations.
    • How conceptual models support and give understanding to procedures for addition and subtraction.


    Students are able to:
    • Use a variety of strategies to solve addition and subtraction problems within 1000.


    Students understand that:
    • Strategies for addition and subtraction will vary depending on the problem.
    • Strategies can include place value, properties of operations, and the relationship between addition and subtraction.

    Primary Learning Objectives

    • Students will:
    • Gather information concerning hurricanes and the effect they have on building structures.
    • Test various materials to see if which ones are water-resistant.
    • Test roof designs to see which ones are more wind-resistant.
    • Compare designs from other groups to determine the best designs.
    • Explain why they chose materials and designs for their roofs.

    Additional Learning Objective(s)

    • Students will purchase materials to build a roof using a budget.
    • Students will purchase and return materials as needed, while adjusting their budget as needed.


    Before Activity

    The teacher will begin the lesson by giving brief information about hurricanes.  Students need to have an understanding of the damage that hurricanes can do to building structures.  Students will watch the following video:

    The teacher can use some of the information in the following articles as added information:

    During Activity

    The teacher will introduce the design challenge by showing "The 4th Little Pig" slideshow.

    Students will quickly build a 4 by 4 inch base of a house using LEGO blocks.

    Each group should be given one of each of the testing materials. Students will test the strength and durability of each material. They will also use a spray water bottle to test water-resistance. Students will make notes of each material tested.  

    Students should be given a response sheet to begin the engineering process. Each group will be given a budget to purchase materials for their roofs. Students must decide which materials to purchase and complete their budget with a total amount spent.  

    During the build, students may purchase or exchange materials as long as they stay within their budget. The budget may not be exceeded at any time during the build. Students will be given about 20-30 minutes to build the base and roof.

    After Activity

    Students will sketch their final designs on the response sheet.  

    Assessment Strategies

    The teacher will spray water on each group's roof to see if the roof is water-resistant.  Then, the teacher will blow a hair dryer (strong wind source) to see if the roof will withstand a strong wind. Students should be given about 10-15 minutes to redesign their roofs. You can either give them additional money to spend, allow them to get only 3 additional materials, or just let them get what they need to improve their design.  Allow the groups to retest the new design.

    Students will complete the "Evaluation/Improve" section of their response sheet.

    Each group will share their findings with the class.  Group members should be able to :

    • Defend their designs and purchased materials
    • Tell the strengths of their design
    • Acknowledge the weaknesses of their designs


    If time allows. students could bring in their own materials to create a new roof.  Students should follow the same assessment plan.


    Since students are working in groups, little remediation should be needed.  However, the teacher will intervene where needed.

    Approximate Duration

    Total Duration

    91 to 120 Minutes

    Background and Preparation


    The teacher will need to have plenty of each material for the students to purchase. Prices should be included on the materials.  

    The teacher needs to be able to retell the story of "The Three Little Pigs" or read the story aloud.  

    Students need to be able to build a basic, square base of a house using LEGO blocks.  

    Materials and Resources

    Materials and Resources

    Materials to test for roof structure:

    • Aluminum foil
    • Note cards
    • Plastic baggies
    • Wax paper
    • Felt
    • Foam sheets
    • Toothpicks
    • Popsicle sticks
    • Straws
    • Chenille sticks

    Additional materials:

    • Tape
    • Scissors
    • Glue
    • LEGO blocks to build a foundation for the house
    • Hairdryer (wind source)
    • Spray bottle with water (water source)
    • Response sheet: PDF or editable document
    • Pencil


    Technology Resources Needed

    Projector/White board


          NASA Videos:

          NASA Online Articles:

    Three Little Pigs Slideshow