SPIKE™ Essential


Maria notices that when she opens the window, her papers blow around the room. How does that happen?

45-90 min.
Grade 5


*(NOTE: This lesson contains a Part A and a Part B. Both are important to access the full learning of the standard. If time is limited, review both parts to choose elements that meet your students’ needs.)

In this lesson, students will build a fan, using the example image(s) for inspiration. Encourage them to design and build their own idea for a fan.

  • Science Background - Matter:
    • Matter refers to the substances from which objects are created.
    • Matter has mass and takes up space in solid, liquid, or gas form.
  • Build students' prior knowledge - Matter: Using your core science materials, share information, images, and definitions.
    • Wind is moving air. Air, like all matter, is made up of physical particles too small to see. (Note that students do not need to know about molecules or the types of gases that make up air.)
    • Key vocabulary: matter, air, particle
  • Building and Programming Experience: Review the suggestions in the Unit Plan. For this lesson, you may also want to:
    • Reinforce with the Motor tutorial in the SPIKE App Start menu.
    • Use the Event and Sensor Blocks sections of the Help>Word Blocks menu in the SPIKE App to provide more support.
  • Materials: Make paper towers with these steps: 1) Cut each sheet of copy paper lengthwise in thirds. 2) For each one-third sheet created, fold both long sides to form a bracket shape. 3) Confirm that the paper stands upright when undisturbed and falls over with a light breeze (see template). If you wish, have students create their own paper towers during the lesson.

PART A (45 minutes)


(Whole Class, 10 minutes)

  • Introduce the story’s main character(s) and the first challenge: Maria notices that when she opens the window, her papers blow around the room. How does that happen?

  • THINK—Facilitate a brief discussion about the lesson topic(s)

    • What is air? Is it just empty space? (No, air is made up of particles too small to see.)
    • What evidence do you have from everyday life that air is not just empty space? (Examples will vary. Students may mention inflating balloons or tires, breathing in and out, feeling the wind blow, etc.)
  • Distribute a LEGO® Education SPIKE Essential Set and device to each group.


(Small Groups, 25 minutes)

  • As students work, consider sharing the examples below as support for building and programming. Clarify that the images show one idea and students should design and build their own fan idea.

  • Have students:

    • Use the base model to BUILD a fan that can make a breeze to blow over a paper tower.
    • PROGRAM their model to make the fan blades spin, starting with a speed of 100%. They can test and observe the effect of the fan’s performance by positioning the paper tower 1) in the front, 2) at one side, or 3) at different distances from the fan.
    • Test if their model can knock over the paper tower.
    • Redesign and retest as necessary.
  • Facilitate brainstorming about ways to use LEGO elements to create effective fan blades that blow over the paper tower.

  • Halfway through work time, have students exchange ideas using a familiar classroom routine and then update their models with inspiration from sharing.

Example Ideas

SPIKE Essential Matter - en


(Whole Class, 10 minutes)

  • Gather students for sharing. 

  • Have each group use their model to demonstrate and explain how their fan:

    • Is able to move air particles.
    • Can blow over a paper tower without touching it.
  • Invite students to share how they updated their model to improve its performance.

  • If you wish to continue to Part B—Explain, have students keep their models intact or allow time for rebuilding.

PART B (45 minutes)


(Whole Class, 10 minutes)

  • Repeat the steps from Part A—Explain to have additional groups demonstrate and explain their learning.


(Whole Class, 30 minutes)

  • (5 min) Share background to help students Elaborate: Cardboard or other materials might make more effective fan blades than LEGO pieces because they can push more air.

  • (20 min) Have your students iterate and test their models to complete the next challenge in the app: Use cardboard or other materials to design a better fan blade. Test your fan again. What happens?

  • (5 min) Invite students to share knowledge, ideas, or skills that:

    • Helped them complete the challenge or what they learned while building.
    • Have students clean up the sets and work areas.


(Whole Class, 5 minutes)

  • Ask guiding questions to elicit students’ thinking and their decisions while ideating, building, and programming.

Observation Checklist

  • Review the learning objectives (Teacher Support box).
  • Share specific student responses and behaviors at different levels of mastery.
  • Use the checklist to observe students’ progress:
    • Their fan can blow over a paper tower a short distance away.
    • Their explanation demonstrates that air particles blown by the fan have pushed the paper over, even though the particles are too small to see.

Have each student choose the brick that they feel best represents their performance。

  • Blue brick: I think I can follow instructions to create a program.
  • Yellow brick: I can follow instructions to create a program.
  • Green brick: I can follow instructions to create a program, and I can help a friend do it too.

In their small groups, have your students discuss their experiences working together.
Encourage them to use statements like these:

  • I liked it when you…
  • I’d like to hear more about how you…


Simplify this lesson by:

  • Stopping after the first challenge: Build a fan model that shows air particles can knock over a paper tower. Ask students yes/no questions to elicit their explanation.
    Increase the difficulty by:
  • Having students investigate and compare the effects of different motor speeds, e.g., the default of 75% against the max of 100%. Ask them to draw and label a diagram to explain how air and other particles of matter are affected.


  • Provide learning materials about the Beaufort scale, which is used to measure the force of wind. Have students produce an editorial or advertisement for the Beaufort scale explaining why it is useful to have a scale to measure wind rather than using people’s subjective impressions.

If facilitated, this will extend beyond the 45-minute lesson.

Language Arts: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.1

Teacher Support

Students will:

  • Develop a motorized fan that is able to blow over a paper tower a short distance away.
  • Explain that although air particles are too small to see, they are pushed by the fan against the paper to knock it over.

(one for every two students)

  • LEGO® Education SPIKE Essential Set
  • Device with the LEGO Education SPIKE App installed
  • See Prepare - Materials
  • NGSS 5-PS1-1: Develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen.
  • CSTA 1B-AP-15
  • NGSS 3-5-ETS1-1
  • ISTE 1.4c

Language Arts Extension


Student Material

Student Worksheet

Download, view, or share as an online HTML page or a printable PDF.