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The Most Magnificent First Grade STEM Challenge

What is THE Most Magnificent Thing? Well, to some of us it’s a pumpkin spice frappuccino…

To first graders, it’s STEM time and building something, actually building anything. They love to create, especially if they have a book read to them first.

This little challenge was one we completed after reading a book about an inventor that solves a problem for her dog. And, of course, we built dogs!

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Truth- my original thinking about this challenge was to build something to help a dog. But, after we read the book, the kids were excited to build a robot…

A Dog Robot

I think there are pictures in the book we read that made them think of robots and the first graders were pretty stuck on that. So, we built dog robots. (Instructions for this challenge are included for you today for free– keep reading!)
I pulled items out of the cabinets that I already had- small cups, straws, craft sticks, foil, and construction paper.
STEM Challenge for first graders- build a robot dog!
I had some googly eyes I think I gave to some classes, but they also made their own. Notice those big eyes above!
STEM Challenge for first graders- build a robot dog!
We loved this one. It looks like the robot dog is kneeling and his tongue is also sticking out. Typical dog!
STEM Challenge for first graders- build a robot dog!
Here’s the finished model with the big eyes. How cute are those legs made of straws! Not to mention his long green ears. I learned a long time ago that first graders do not care what color they use. Green ears are just fine with them.
STEM Challenge for first graders- build a robot dog!
The tail on this one is holding it upright and I love those square pink ears!
STEM Challenge for first graders- build a robot dog!

Not every robot dog was standing up, but I love the details the kids added. The one above has a bandana around his neck!

The best part of this challenge was our sharing time. Each group showed their robot dog and then told us what service it performed for a human. Oh my, we had some great little dog robots. Some did our homework and some just brought us a book to read. This was a fun one!

I have included some dog books that would be the perfect set up for this challenge! Take a look below! (Keep going, your freebie is coming soon!)

Cool Dog, School Dog by Deborah Heiligman

What a fun book this is! Tinka is the dog and every page describes her antics in rhyme.

Tinka is a fun dog, a sun dog, a run and run and run dog.

Everything is going well until Tinka’s young owner has to go to school. Then she manages to escape and runs away to school. While there she is a little bit naughty, but in the end, the teacher decides to allow her to stay and read with the children.

It’s total fun and so full of rhyming words. It would be great to challenge students to make up more rhyming sentences for  Tinka. And, of course, you can make a robot Tinka!

A Dog’s Life by Caroline Sherman

This delightful and quick picture book is told from the dog’s point of view. He claims to be the perfect helper in his home. Kids laugh out loud as you read through his adventures. He says he is a great yard keeper, but really he is slinging the hose all over the garden. He says he answers the doorbell every time it rings, but really he is barking whenever someone comes to the door. He gathers the mail, but really he is chasing the mailman. Every claim the silly dog makes is shown as a goof-up in the illustrations. It’s a book kids need to see the pictures to understand!

The robot dog challenge is perfect for this book- since a family might prefer a dog that actually does do chores. After reading the book ask students to make a robot dog that will perform one of the chores from the book.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

This is a fabulous little picture book about a little girl and her best friend, her dog. She loves to make things and the dog helps her – by taking things apart.

One day she decides to make the most magnificent thing. She gathers a lot of junk from around her neighborhood and tinkers and builds and makes a thing- but it is not good. So she starts over.

This continues as she builds and rebuilds and tries new things. But, nothing seems to work. She finally gets angry and has quite a little temper explosion. The dog decides they need to go for a walk. As they are walking along she notices all the things that she had built and discovers that each by itself was not good, but what if she takes parts from them and puts those parts together differently.

In the end, she has built the most magnificent thing- a scooter that will allow her dog to ride with her!

Alright, here’s your freebie!

First, I have tried a similar robot challenge with second graders, but they built “human robots”. You can see that post >>>>HERE.

And, finally, if you’d like to have an instruction sheet for this Robot Dog STEM Challenge, click right >>>>>>>HERE!

Thanks so much for stopping by to check out this first-grade activity! They loved it and so will you! It really is a magnificent thing!


  1. I always read the book "Just Dog" to my students at the beginning of the school year. It's a great way to teach them to just be themselves and that they are all unique for who they are! I think I will include this stem challenge after reading that book with them this year! Thanks for a fun idea! I am looking forward to reading some of your other stem blog posts.

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