Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Getting Ready: Building Structures

Preparing Your Classroom Environment

An example of how to set up the building area in your classroom


When preparing your classroom for Building Structures, there are many ways to get creative and inspire your little learners. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Include images of buildings, building materials, etc.

  • Have a camera ready. Taking photographs of the structures is a great way to keep a record, since they can easily take up space or be knocked over!

Material selection

  • Simple blocks - you can begin with foam blocks

  • Wooden unit blocks are an excellent choice

  • Recycled materials, paper towel tubes, small cardboard boxes, Pringles cans - be resourceful! 

Space Available

    • Space for building across or high

    • Accessibility to blocks

    • Table space for enclosures

    Displays of student learning

    • Space to display drawings or photographs of buildings.

    • žResources that help students wonder

    • Books about structures or building

    • Different materials that students can use to build


    An example of how placing images of buildings in the block area can inspire students to build. You can also display drawings of buildings that the students have done themselves.


    Preparing Your Students for Building Structures

    Building Structures is a special science unit for the littlest learners. Sometimes it is tempting for your students to use the blocks for other purposes. You also may be nervous about students building tall towers above their heads. However, it is important for students to explore the blocks fully. Allow them space and time to get familiar with the materials before building tall towers.

    Give your students a chance to come up with their own rules for keeping everyone safe in the block area. Some rules to keep in mind may include:

    • Blocks stay in the Block Center

    • Blocks are used for building!

    • Keep yourself and your friends safe in the block center (you could even include a couple of hard hats for some fun imaginative construction play!)

    With defined rules, everyone will understand. It may take a little time, and do expect some students to knock down blocks, but by keeping them engaged they will eventually become familiar with the materials and explore with them appropriately.