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Can you design a safe house?


Core National Curriculum links

Science, DT, Maths

Other National Curriculum links

Literacy (instructions, labelled diagrams)

Main engineering principles

  • Pupils are engaged in the purposeful practical problem solving
  • Pupils take ownership of the design and make process
  • Pupils embrace and learn from failure
  • Pupils draw on a range of thinking skills and personal capabilities


About a lesson


System thinking, Adapting, Visualising, Improving

EDP stages

Create, Improve

Resources required

The Wicked Witch in the Singing Sands (pdf), Sticks, String, Elastic bands, Masking tape (and others types of sticky tape), Dolls (to test)

Summary of activity

Pupils are given a task to design and make a high house for a family to live in that is safe from the witch who steals pupils. Must be secure and sturdy with a detachable access route. Links to short story - The Wicked Witch of the Singing Sands.

To open the activity

A short introduction of the story (preferably through drama). Explain that it is rumoured that the witch steals pupils and the family must build a safe house where the witch is unable to get to the pupils.

The main activity

Pupils begin by designing a safe house considering the resources that are available. This must be high enough so that the witch cannot get to it - this could be in tree or using other ways to hang the house. This is a very free activity where pupils can test and adapt their ideas throughout.

Challenge and support

Challenge - create a mechanism to pull the access route up.  

Support - pupils just to make the house and place in a tree.

To finish the activity

Encourage pupils to test their house and evaluate whether it is safe and secure and will not fall with the weight of doll pupils.

Learn from me (what worked well for us)

I completed this activity outside with the agenda that any natural resources the pupils find and wish to use - they could. Although, I origninally planned for this lesson to take an hour, it actually took 2 hours. Many pupils decided to hang their house from the school fence. 

Links for teachers

The Wicked Witch of the Singing Sands (pdf copy available online)

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