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Project Playbook: Educator Edition

Mud Bricks

Design and build a shelter using traditional style mud bricks.


Mud brick houses have been a part of human civilization for thousands of years. Dating back to the third century B.C., there have been 15 reported archeological sites where mud brick houses have been discovered. It is a tried and true way to build  nd insulate a structure. Made with simple, cheap materials that are readily available all over the world, mud bricks are a classic example of resourcing and reusing what we find in our


  • Playing in mud is scientifically proven to boost your mood due to the microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae.
  • Pigs, warthogs, elephants and rhinos bathe in mud to lower their body temperatures.
  • Time to get crafty! Pottery made of clay—also known as mud—dates back to 27,000 B.C.

❏ Dirt
❏ Water
❏ Spoon
❏ Bowl
❏ Ice cube tray
❏ Sunlight


  1. Put two cups of dirt in a bowl and mix in water. Add enough that the dirt is wet all the way through, but there’s no puddle.
  2. Place your mud into the ice cube tray and pack it in tight.
  3. Place the tray outside in direct sunlight to harden the mud. Leave outside for 48 hours to harden. It is probably a good idea to set several trays out to harden so there are a large amount of bricks to build with.
  4. Have your kid sketch out the designs they plan to build with their mud bricks.
  5. Once the mud has hardened, remove the bricks from the ice cube tray and start building!

OBJECTIVE: Kids will be able to design a physical model of a simple shelter (connection may be used to needs of animals for survival).


  • How might we build a simple shelter from natural materials that can be used from the harsh natural elements for survival?

Video: Watch this Project in Action

Engage / Explore

  1. Students are posed with the task of designing their shelter
  2. Provide them, or ask them to gather materials
    1. Ask them to consider how to build a shelter
    2. Allow students to make a mess with the mud and explore ways to design a shelter.
    3. Nurture the students and encourage both successes and failure.
  3. Evaluate (informal)
    1. Students’ problem-solving process
    2. Creativity and divergent thinking
    3. Reasoning


  1. Read books on engineering with your child:
    1. Rosie Revere, Engineer, Andrea Beaty (ISBN-13: 978-1419708459)
    2. How a House is Built, Gail Gibbons (ISBN-13: 978-0823412327)
    3. Look at that Building! A First Book of Structures, Scot Ritchie (ISBN-13: 978-1554536962)
  2. Discuss the literature and engineering.
  3. Tell them we will revisit and design our shelter again.
    1. Show them how to make bricks with their mud, a way to form building materials. 4.
  4. Have child talk about how they will build their shelter.


  1. Allow student to revisit their project and build using any method of their choice.
    1. Encourage use of bricks.
    2. Encourage child to brainstorm on how they can form differently-shaped bricks.
  2. Evaluate
    1. Students’ iterative designs (before and after)
    2. Creativity and divergent thinking
    3. Reasoning—collaboration
    4. Use of language and mathematics to describe characteristics

Educational Standards


K-2-ETS1-2. Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.

K-2-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.

K-ESS2-2. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs.



R.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

W.K.1 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book.

W.K.2 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

SL.2.5 Create audio recordings of stories or poems; use drawings or other visual displays or stories to recount the experience when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

W.2.6 With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

W.2.8 Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

MP.4 Model with mathematics.

MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically.

2.MD.D.10 Draw a picture graph and a bar graph (with single-unit scale) to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems using information presented in a bar graph.

Level 1: Recall
Level 2: Concept
Level 3: Strategic Thinking
Level 4: Extended Thinking