RAFT Makerspace Lessons

RAFT connects corporations to schools by collecting and up-cycling surplus materials into hands-on learning curriculum.

The units below are integrated STEAM lessons designed directly from NGSS performance expectations and Common Core Math standards. Each unit provides students with the opportunity to explore core concepts individually before applying these concepts to solve a design challenge.


Shapes All Around

77629A-R2-16AIn this unit, students engage in lessons that explore shapes in different capacities such as designing a living space with shapes or solving a shape puzzle without leaving white space between the shapes. These different lessons will provide students with the skills needed to master identifying, describing, and constructing different shapes in natural settings.

Designed to integrate DRDP outcomes:  COG 9: Shapes, COG 1: Spatial Relationships, VPA 1:Virtual Art, SED 4: Relationships and Social Interactions with Peers




Measuring the Classroom

DSC_5068Often people are faced with the task of arranging furniture to use the space in a room efficiently. For the design challenge at the end of this unit, students will be asked to do exactly that in their own classroom.  To prepare for the challenge, students will be learning how to compare the sizes of different objects against each other. Students will learn about measuring different attributes, including length, width, and different measuring units.

Designed to integrate NGSS K-2-ETS1-3 and CC Math K.MD.A.2



Use Design Thinking to Stay Cool

Students will use given scientific information about sunlight’s warming effect on the Earth’s surface to collaboratively design and build a structure that reduces warming caused by the sun.

Designed to integrate NGSS K-PS3-2, NGSS K-2-ETS1, CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.MD.A.1 and CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.MD.A.2

Co-created with Campbell Union School District Teachers


First Grade

Send Messages with Light & Sound

In this unit, students will identify how to communicate messages over a distance with light and sound. Students will examine how communicating without language barriers and over distances can help people.

Designed to integrate NGSS 1-PS4-4. and CC ELA/Literacy W.1.7

Co-created with Campbell Union School District Teachers


Create a Morse Code Device

DSCN1843For the design challenge at the end of this unit, students will be asked to create devices that allow them to communicate using sounds rather than speech. To prepare for the challenge, students will be learning how different sounds can be created by various vibrating materials. They will learn that sound pitch and volume can change depending on the size of vibrating object.

Designed to integrate NGSS 1-PS4-1, CCSS.MATH.CONTENT. 1.MD.C.4


Second Grade

Design Weatherproof Signs for Your School

In this unit, students will plan and conduct an investigation to interpret the usefulness of materials based on their observable characteristics and properties. Student teams will classify and sort upcycled materials, communicate their reasoning for their arrangements, and be able to demonstrate their understanding of observable properties and suitable uses for the materials. Students then create useful visual communications for the school community as well as test their ideas for longevity and weathering.

Designed to integrate NGSS 2-PS1, ESL/Literacy W.2.8, CCSS. MATH.CONTENT.MP.2., CCSS. MATH.CONTENT.MP.4., CCSS. MATH.CONTENT.MP.5., and CCSS. MATH.CONTENT.2.MD.D.10.

Co-created with Campbell Union School District Teachers


Build a custom carrying case for your special creation

In this unit, students will be challenged to design their own specialized carrying case.  They will begin with some practice tinkering to make an object.  They will then work through lessons on measurement, and choosing materials to aid in their design of a carrying case for the object they make.

Performance expectations: NGSS 2-PS1-2, CCSS.MATH.CONTENT. K.MD.A.2


Third Grade

Design a Weather Instrument

How can we predict the weather? What data helps us determine weather patterns in the future? In this unit, students  create weather tools to collect and record data in tables and graphical displays in order to describe and to predict typical weather conditions expected during a particular season. In the Design Challenge students create out of upcycled materials a classroom wall map with weather symbols and record a video weather report/prediction based on their current weather observations.

Co-created with Campbell Union School District Teachers and Citrix


Safe Crossings

Image result for crevasseAligned with the theme of The 2017 Tech Challenge, this unit invites student teams to learn about the dangers associated with mountain climbing, the equipment and skills used to address those dangers, and then culminates in a design challenge where students design, prototype, and test a solution for safely crossing an icy crevasse.

Designed to integrate NGSS 3-5-ETS1-2, NGSS 3-5-ETS1-3, and CCSS Writing W.3.2

Co-developed with The Tech Museum of Innovation and the San Jose Public Library


Fourth Grade

Animal Responses to Information

How do animals receive and respond to different types of information?  How do animals use the information to guide their actions and behaviors within their environments?  In this unit students explore these questions by learning about animal senses and then engaging in several activities and a simulation where they experience first-hand how to perceive their surroundings and use the information to make decisions and guide their own behaviors.  The unit culminates in a design challenge where students develop an animal model with input sensors and then create a decision tree that demonstrates how the animal processes and responds to information.

Designed to integrate NGSS 4-LS1-2, CCSS Math 4.OA.C.5, CCSS ELA-Literacy W.4 and CCSS.ELA-Literacy SL.4.1

Co-created with Campbell Union School District Teachers


A Glimpse into Cybersecurity

Image result for cybersecurityA design thinking unit that teaches fourth grade students about the nature and types of data requiring protection and strategies for cybersecurity both on a personal and global level

This unit invites students to work in teams to build and test a device that applies multiple layers of encryption to protect data and uses patterns to safely transmit the data.

Designed to integrate NGSS performance expectation 4-PS4-3 and CCSS reading informational text RI.4.9 and CCSS math 4.NBT.B.4

This unit was produced in collaboration with




Exploring the Relationship between Electricity and Magnetism

Students make observations and conduct investigations to provide evidence that energy can be transformed and moved from place to place by electric currents to power circuits and create magnetic fields.

This unit invites students to leverage their learning to collaboratively build and test a device that powers an LED by inducing an electric or magnetic field.

Designed to integrate NGSS performance expectations 4-PS3-2, 4-PS2-4, and 4-PS3-4

This unit was produced in collaboration with




Fifth Grade

Interactions Among Earth’s Spheres

We live in an interactive world that affects the Earth’s surface materials and processes. In this unit students will investigate various characteristics and interfaces between the Earth’s 4 major sphere systems: the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans). Student teams demonstrate understanding of these major systems by designing related interactive card games and 3D water cycle models. In the Design Challenge, student teams use upcycled materials to create 3D models of two spheres and how they interact.

Designed to integrate NGSS 5-ESS2 and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.5.4

Co-created with Campbell Union School District Teachers


Freshwater Transport

77629A-R7-19Design a model of a freshwater transport system to solve a real world need.

In this learn-to-inquire unit, students learn to define a problem with specific constraints, collect and display data, and use a model to iterate on a solution.

Designed to integrate NGSS engineering performance expectation: 3-5-ETS1-1 and Common Core Math Content: 5.MD.2 and Common Core Writing Content: W.5.7


Digital Citizenship

Image result for digital citizenshipDesign a classroom in which people can learn skills and concepts needed to become responsible digital citizens.

In this unit, students learn the basic principles of digital citizenship such as the nature of networked digital environments, strategies for data safety, types of hackers and their activities, identifying and addressing cyberbullies, and ethical behaviors in online environments.

Designed to integrate CCSS ELA speaking and listening content: 5.4 – 5.5 and ISTE 2B – 4B

This unit was produced in collaboration with




Sixth Grade

Reduce Human Impact on the Environment

How can we reduce our negative impact on the environment? What methods help us sustain and even improve the environment? What factors harm our environment and what can we do about them?  The design process throughout this unit examines human environmental impacts, assessing the kinds of solutions that are feasible, and designing and evaluating solutions that could reduce that impact. Student teams will investigate minimizing the impact of humans on water usage, land usage, and/or pollution in the environment.


Co-created with Campbell Union School District Teachers


Have a Ball!

77629A-R5-30Design, build, test and share a better soccer ball.

In this unit students develop an understanding of calculating the area of complex polygons by deconstructing them. Students then apply this understanding to design a soccer ball through an iterative process. Students also learn up-cycling from innovative children around the world.

Designed to integrate Common Core Math Content 6.G.A.1 and NGSS Middle School Engineering Design Performance Expectation MS-ETS1-1


Seventh Grade

How do Natural Resources Become Synthetic Materials?

How can we use natural materials to create new and useful synthetic materials?  Student teams will investigate various natural resources that undergo a chemical process to form synthetic materials and new materials that could be made from them, including new medicines, foods, and alternative fuels. They will play a game trading resources to create products with associated costs and then report the cost benefits and suggest better solutions.  In the Design Challenge student teams create an educational product for younger students made from upcycled materials.

Designed to integrate NGSS MS-PS1-3, CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7, CCSS.RP.A.2.C, ELA/ WHST.6-8.8, and CCSS. ELA/ RST.6-8.1

Co-created with Campbell Union School District Teachers


Early Warning Systems

Colors of Light is an easy-to-build spectroscope editedIn this unit, students develop and use a model to describe that waves are transmitted through various materials by designing an adjustable warning device that transmits reflected light across a distance.

Designed from NGSS Performance expectation: MS-PS4-2


Eighth Grade

Structural Gene Changes in Proteins

How can changes to genes (mutations) affect proteins and result in harmful or beneficial or neutral effects in the structure and function of an organism? In this Design Challenge unit, student teams will investigate and identify a model of a chromosome that lives in a specific environment, and then quickly copy the chromosome to model a DNA mutation, finding errors in their copies and identifying structural changes for each error. Students will describe the resulting new organism(s), and determine its probability of survival within its original environment.

Designed from NGSS MS-LS3-1 performance expectations

Co-created with Campbell Union School District Teachers


Design an Electronic Board Game

Students learn and apply several electrical engineering concepts such as series/parallel circuits, resistance, capacitance, voltage, current, and electric fields through a series of lessons that culminate in a design challenge where students build complex circuits embedded within their very own board game!

Designed from NGSS performance expectation: MS-PS2-3, MS-PS2-5

Created with support from Texas Instruments


Design a Noise Cancelling Device

Pop_9751Students explore the absorption and reflective properties of different materials be used to minimize the effects of excessive noise on noise-induced hearing loss. Students then use this understanding to build and use an assistive listening device.

Designed from NGSS performance expectation: MS-PS4-2



What Is Design Thinking?

Many of RAFT’s Maker-Space lessons are built using Stanford’s Design Thinking process.Design Thinking is a methodology used to solve real world problems. This  process helps students to deeply understand a problem, learn and explore the concepts needed in finding solutions, and iterate on a solution while achieving proficiency with performance expectations.

ALL of our STEAM lessons are built directly from NGSS performance expectations and Common Core MATH standards. The design thinking process is useful in deconstructing each concept used in a performance expectation and giving students ample practice before applying their understanding to an end-of-unit challenge that mirrors the performance expectation.

Build a Maker Toolkit

Ready to get started with RAFT makerspace hands on learning? Try our new make-your-makerspace lesson for an intro to the design thinking process.

Building a Makerspace in Your School

RAFT can help your school design a space for deeper inquiry and problem based learning using low-cost up-cycled materials.



We partner with your school to ensure teachers have curriculum, training, and material resources throughout the school year.



We can eve help plan school community events to ensure success and sustainability.





RAFT makes it easy to get started with a classroom makerspace. Our Makerspace-in-a-box kit provides a class set of RAFT hands-on learning materials useable with all of our lessons here.


The Design Thinking Process

Our design thinking units have five phases based on the d.school’s model. Each phase can be repeated to allow students to re-work and iterate while developing deeper understanding of the core concepts. These are the five phases of the design thinking model:

EMPATHIZE: Work to fully understand the experience of the user for whom you are designing.  Do this through observation, interaction, and immersing yourself in their experiences.

DEFINE: Process and synthesize the findings from your empathy work in order to form a user point of view that you will address with your design.

IDEATE: Explore a wide variety of possible solutions through generating a large quantity of diverse possible solutions, allowing you to step beyond the obvious and explore a range of ideas.

PROTOTYPE: Transform your ideas into a physical form so that you can experience and interact with them and, in the process, learn and develop more empathy.

TEST: Try out high-resolution products and use observations and feedback to refine prototypes, learn more about the user, and refine your original point of view.

The Design Thinking Process | ReDesigning Theater. (n.d.). Retrieved April 2, 2016, from http://dschool.stanford.edu/redesigningtheater/the-design-thinking-process/