Lesson Plan: Building and Creating with the Cerebral Cortex
Curriculum Alignment
NextGen Science Standards

LS1.A: Structure and Function

All organisms have external parts. Different animals use their body parts in different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, protect themselves, move from place to place, and seek, find, and take in food, water and air. Plants also have different parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits) that help them survive and grow. (1-LS1-1)

LS1.D: Information Processing

Animals have body parts that capture and convey different kinds of information needed for growth and survival. Animals respond to these inputs with behaviors that help them survive. Plants also respond to some external inputs.

Engineering ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

A situation that people want to change or create can be approached as a problem to be solved through engineering. (K-2-ETS1-1)

Asking questions, making observations, and gathering information are helpful in thinking about problems. (K-2-ETS1-1)

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

Designs can be conveyed through sketches, drawings, or physical models. These representations are useful in communicating ideas for a problem’s solutions to other people. (K-2-ETS1-2)

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

Because there is always more than one possible solution to a problem, it is useful to compare and test designs. (K-2-ETS1-3)

Learning Objective

Your Cerebral Cortex is the largest part of your brain. It helps with creativity, thinking, and making decisions.


Students will use recycled materials along with their design and planning skills to construct, test, and refine three-dimensional structures. Students will have to think about balance and proportion to fit the varied pieces into a sculpture, building, or invention. You can display the structures and a build upon the activity to discuss the many aspects of the cerebral cortex functions.

Before the Lesson

Decide if you would like to do this activity as a group project or for each student to work individually.

Collect the materials you will need for the activity. Consider where you will store the items you collect, and if you want them to be collected in advance or sent in a day or two before the activity. You will want to have at least 4-5 pieces for each student or group, if kids are working in a group.

You will need shoe boxes, milk cartons, canisters of different sizes and shapes. Ask that parents send these materials well rinsed. You may wish to customize and then send note provided here to parents, in order to request material. See To Print section.

Dear Parents: 

We are collecting clean items to use for a re-use art project. Please save items that we can use and send them to school on __________. Here is a list of ideas. Please check with me about other items you think might be interesting!

  • Cardboard boxes of all sizes
  • Rectangular clear plastic containers of many sizes
  • Lids from containers of milk or juice
  • Fabric scraps
  • Pieces of carpet
  • Ribbon, yarn, string
  • Plastic canisters or containers such as potato chip, cottage cheese or coffee canisters of many sizes
  • Cardboard rolls from wrapping paper or paper towels
  • Construction paper or other interesting paper
  • Buttons, knobs, decorative pieces to be attached with glue
  • Plastic rings such as from shower curtains

Thank you!

In addition to the recycled art materials, you will need:

  • Paper and pencils for sketching
  • White glue and masking tape
  • Decorating supplies such as paint, markers, or stickers

The day before or day of your activity: Introduce your students to the brain diagram showing the cerebral cortex. Point out where it is located using the brain diagram. You may do this activity in conjunction with using the Brain Bridge app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/brain-bridge/id969166828?mt=8


Ask: What are some of the things the cerebral cortex helps you to do? Make a list of the students’ responses on a board or butcher paper. You may also listen to the Creativity and Thinking Cap songs and talk about how students will be using both parts of their brains in a building activity.

"Brain Play" song on YouTube

"Creativity" song on YouTube

"Put on Your Thinking Cap" song on iTunes 

"Put on Your Thinking Cap" song on Amazon

Tell the students:

Today you will plan and create a structure.

You may wish to use the brain bridge activity to get kids thinking about the purpose of their work. What are they trying to create? Is there a problem they are trying to solve?

Have students choose some of the materials they will use.

Next, have each student or group sketch ideas about how they will assemble the pieces.

When you are ready to begin the activity, make sure each student or group has some glue or masking tape available, along with the pieces they will use.  Ask the students or groups to follow their drawings as much as possible, but emphasize that it is perfectly okay to adjust plans as they learn more about how the pieces will fit together.

Encourage them to create buildings or bridges or anything the brain can come up with. As students encounter challenges, remind them of the process of learning from things that don’t work the first time, and making adjustments!

As you work with students, tell them that engineers must start with a model or prototype and then use information to improve and refine it. Have students pay attention to what they are learning and changing in response to these tests.

Invite students to use their creativity to add color and embellishment to their structures. Display the student work with notes from the creator(s) about what their goal was, how they planned, and what changes they made along the way.  You may wish the use the display form, provided below, or create your own way to capture the information.


Take pictures of the creations if you are not able to store them, and create a way to display them, either on a bulletin board or class web site.  This way you can continue to discuss them and share them with others.

The students’ creativity and planning does not need to end with one activity. This activity may stretch over several days, providing that you have space to store the students’ work.

Encourage students to continue to think of ways to expand and develop the structure and function of their creation.

Further Exploration

If your students create some interesting pieces with cardboard, you may wish to share your creations on social media using the hashtag #cardboardchallenge.

Here are other NeuroPlay Adventures and Every Body Has a Brain songs you can use to support this Learning Objective:

Brain Play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPFKwu_quxI

Every Body Has a Brain -  iTunes and Amazon:



Your Brain Helping You (YouTube, iTunes and Amazon):




You’re Always Using Your Brain (iTunes and Amazon):



Download Printables
Web Resources

For more about creativity and planning, you may wish to visit the Global Cardboard Challenge. This initiative encourages children to engineer and create with materials that are easily available.