LEAP Program: 3rd/4th Grades 

3rd/4th Grade LEAP Curriculum

>Each Day

Next Generation Science Standards: 3rd Grade

Next Generation Science Standards: 4th Grade


Year 1 Plans of a 2 Year Rotating Curriculum. Year 2 Plans are below 

Engineering Design Process


  • Welcome to the LEAP Lab. Explain rules and expectations.  Introduce the Engineering Design Process. (EDP)  Ask-Imagine-Plan-Create-Improve.  What is an engineer?  Show YouTube video. LINK (4 minutes, 30 seconds.)           

  • Read, "What Do You Do With an Idea?" Discuss what this means. How ideas evolve, and need nurturing. Explain that they will be creating a shelter for their idea that must include different areas: Somewhere to sleep, somewhere to eat, somewhere to play, a place to grow and a place to watch the stars.  Students can work individually, in pairs or groups. They can start designing their plan for their shelters.                                                              

  • Students will work on their shelters for about a week.  They will then present and talk about challenges they encountered and changes that were made.  


  • Through Cubelets, students will develop a better understanding of engineers and their purpose. Concepts are: Engineering, design cycle, testing success, solving problems as an engineer.  

    A robot is a machine that can SENSE, THINK and ACT

    Discuss different types of engineers. (Mechanical, civil, electrical/software, chemical and biological.)  Types of Engineers LINK  Discuss the different components of Cubelets. (Think, Sense, Act) Allow students to play with a few Cubelets for a bit. (Battery, motion and wheels) Challenge them to make a 'Fraidy Bot' and 'Friendly Bot'.    Intro to Cubelets video LINK                                                                                                                                                              
  • Cubelets Needed: 1 battery, 1 distance, 1 drive, 1 rotate, 1 flashlight, 1 brightness, 1 knob*, brick adapters, Legos

    Today we will investigate what ACT and SENSE Cubelets do. Today is all about understanding what the different sense and act cubelets do. Spend time with each cubelet, turning it around and putting it in different parts of the robot. See how many different drive bots you can make. Then trade your drive bot for a different ACT cubelet. Only use ONE sense cubelet at a time. What do they do?

    Draw one robot you made today and label each cubelet in the robot construction with its name                                     

  • Cubelets Needed: 1 Battery, 1 Brightness, 1 Distance, 1 rotate, 1 flashlight, 1 drive

    Design robots using 3 and 4 blocks. Starting with a drive bot, students will experiment with building robots that use more than one ACT Cubelet. Students brainstorm possible applications for the robots they build.

    First, build a DRIVE BOT using the distance sense and drive act cubelets with the battery cubelet. Take turns building different drive bots with these 3 cubelets. Set up obstacles at your station if you want to.

    Remind students that a robot must SENSE, THINK and then ACT. Where should the sense cubelet be??

    Now that you've practiced with your drive bot, you can begin inventing robots using the cubelets provided. For each robot, I want your group to decide what it could be used for. Be ready to share at least 2 robot constructions and what they can be used for!                                                                                                                                 

  • Cubelets Needed: 1 Distance, 1 Brightness, 1 Battery, 1 Rotate, 1 Drive, 1 Flashlight, 1 Inverse, 1 Passive, 1 Bluetooth*

    What is a Robot? "A Machine that can Sense, Think and Act"

    Today we will explore the THINK Cubelets more. Think cubelets are tricky! Spend time putting your think cubelet in the middle of your robot and then taking it out again. Try putting your Think cubelets in different places in your robot. Use only ONE Think Cubelet at a time while you try to figure them out.

    *Inverse makes the sense do the opposite

    *Passive doesn't do anything

    *Bluetooth doesn't do anything...yet!

    What are some robot constructions you could build with these think cubelets?                                                                   

  • Cubelets Needed: 1 distance, 1 brightness, 1 battery, 1 drive, 1 rotate, 1 flashlight, brick adapters and Legos, Flashlights

    Exploring 2 Sense Robots

    So far we've only used one sense cubelet in our robots. Today we're going to step it up to using TWO sense cubelets. What might happen if we use both the distance AND brightness cubelets? *students predict*

    Allow students to investigate what happens when they use 2 sense cubelets instead of 1. Build robots that have 2 sense cubelets and 2 act cubelets-be careful though! Using 2 sense cubelets can make big changes to your robot.

    What did you discover when using 2 sense instead of one?

    *Robot moves slower with 2 instead of 1.

    *Can control robot with either sense, but they still work together

    *Robot averages the 2 senses-it's 'halfway' between the senses.

    *It matters how close an act cubelet is to a sense cubelet.

    *Sense cubelets do not send commands through each other.                                                                                                    

  • Cubelets Needed: 1 distance, 1 brightness, 1 battery, 1 rotate, 1 flashlight, 1 drive, 1 passive, 1 inverse and Modeling Worksheet


    Remember, Cubelets Sense, Think and Act. Each Cubelet has its own unique defining characteristics. Scientists have to pay close attention to details and often sketch or take photographs of what they're working on. Today you will be allowed a few minutes to experiment with your cubelets. You will then need to draw a model of your creation, paying special attention to details and showing all sides of your robot. On a separate piece of paper you will describe how your robot moves and what it does. Tomorrow you will trade yoru models with others and they will try to build it and have it do what you says it does!                                                                                  

  • Modeling Day 2:

    Students will trade their drawings with another student. Students should PREDICT how the robot will move. Then, build the robot according to the model. Pay extra close attention to which way each block is facing. If you have trouble, write questions on the model. Once finished, find the creator and see if the robot you build looked like andacted how the creator wanted it to. Switch one or two more times depending on time.                         

  • Cubelets needed: 1 rotate, 1 drive, 1 flashlight, 1 brightness, 1 distance, 1 battery, 1 inverse, 1 passive

    Use critical thinking skills to build a robot based on a description. **Criteria and Constraints**

    Warm Up: Build a robot that:

    Runs away from your hand that's not built in one long line

    Challenge: Build a robot that:

    Drives then stops then drives then stops without your hand having to flap back in forth. (You may use sticky notes if you need one to cover the brightness!)

    Hints: Has a sense cubelet that senses an act cubelet

    Has an act cubelet that moves a different act cubelet                                                                                                                  

  • Students will design their own robots using Cubelets and create Task Cards for them. Each group needs to create at least 2 task cards. On the final day, groups can switch and try to make each others' robots.

    Task cards can have criteria and constraints of what the robot should do. Students should also have a model of their robot on the back side of the card.


  • Intro to circuits. What are they? Where can we find them? What do they do. Introduce open and closed circuits. Demonstrate with light switches opening and closing circuits. Show a simple circuit.                                                        
  • Have students experiment with open and closed simple circuits. Introduce concept of conductors and insulators. (Show cut off cord) Pass out paper where students make a hypothesis of whether each item listed is a conductor or an insulator.                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Test conductors and insulators. Pass out baggies of materials. (Plastic fork, penny, play doh, piece of cloth, binder clip) Students should record their discoveries. They can then look around the room and find other conductors/insulators. Show them that PEOPLE are conductors! Hold hands while completing the circuit.                 
  • Makey Makey: Show MM on Smartboard. Allow students to hook up their own and play. Find insulators and conductors for it.                                                                                                                                                                                      
  •  Experiment with Makey Makeys for one more day.                                                                                                                         
  • Introduction to littleBits: Watch Video.  LINK  Talk about the difference between Power, Inputs, Outputs. (color coded) 

    Distribute cups of bits for students to experiment with. Explain RGB bit and need for screwdriver to change the colors. Power always comes first. Input bits only affect the output bits that come after them. Some bits are adjustable with a screwdriver.                                                                                                                                                             

  • Pass out littleBits booklets. Look through pages 4 and 5 quickly about LittleBits basics. Create models on pages 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 

    Read through pages 24-32 together                                                                                                                                                     

  • Invent a self-driving vehicle (pg. 32)                                                                                                                                                         

  • Invent an art machine (pg. 39)                                                                                                                                                               

  • Invent a throwing arm (pg. 46)                                                                                                                                                               

  • Catch up on previous days                                                                                                                                                                      

  • Free exploration with littleBits and cardboard engineering and/or Hack My House: Groups should create one of the provided templates (castle, cottage, igloo or skyscraper) and create an invention for it. (handout)


  • Introduce students to 'The Hour of Code'. Show intro video. LINK Get students logged in and go through tutorial with them.   Offline coding activities. (HOC activities, Robot Turtles, Steps to get me across the room...)                                                                     
  • Work on the Hour of Code (HOC) for about a week. Students can apply their knowledge to any of the codeable robots in the room.

Free Choice Week (If Time)

  • Students can code robots/spheros, invent with littleBits, create with cubelets, or engineer.  

Bonus Rotation (3 Week Increments)

  • Show students how to use www.tinkercad.com  Explain that the thumnails are the 'windows' of the other students' work and they should NOT go into the 'house' of other students.  They need to 'CREATE' their own project and make sure they put their own name up in the top left box.                                                                              
  • For a demonstration, show how to make a keychain.  Drag out a cube, resize it, put on a second workplane, drag out text, change the letters, add a hole, show how you can add other shapes and text to the back and sides, but add workplanes!  Show how to measure how big it is and resize.  Let students tinker for 2-3 days.  Give students a theme if they want the opportunity to have their design printed.  Let all of the students vote on the top 3.                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • 3D Pens.  Half of the class gets a tutorial and a week to work with 3D pens while the other half of the class works on passion projects.  

Year 2 Plans of 2 Year Rotating Curriculum (These plans were created with 4th grade in mind.)

Engineering Design Process

  • Introduce kids to the EDP and discuss.  Good LINK for getting started  Paraphrased Here
  • Read the book "If I Built a Car" by Chris Van Dusen.  Discuss.  
  • Sudents should then build 2 wheel balloon cars.  LINK   Use mints for wheels!  So smart! Revised
  • After balloon cars have been built and tested, students should then figure out ways to improve upon them. They can make them faster, more precise, flashier, etc. They can use anything in the Makerspace area, including littleBits.  The wheels need to stay Lifesavers. Everything else can be adjusted. Students should consciously work through the EDP
  • Present and test cars

Coding and Robotics

  • Students should work on www.code.org at an appropriate level.  
  • After students have successfully completed their coding work, they will code Spheros, Sphero Minis, MBlock and Dash Robots.  Robotics Choice Board
  • Energy (4th Grade NGSS)

"Education should prepare young people for jobs that do not yet exist, using technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems of which we are not yet aware." 

-Richard Riley