Shaping Stories

Shaping Stories

From your imagination design a tool to help a character find their way out of a forest and back home.



Duration: 2 x 45-minute Periods

Class Size: 30 Students

Group Size: Individuals or 2 Students

Engage in learning how to build with Strawbees through creative free play. Listen to the story and then help Ley, the main character of the story, find their way out of the forest by a useful tool with a Strawbees prototype.

Learning Objectives

  • Fine-tune motor skills with tools and assembling materials together.
  • Identifying elements of the story which stood out to the individual to process their experimental learning.
  • Build the ability to emphasize and relate to others by seeing how they feel in the moment and think about what is an appropriate or comforting feeling to them.
  • Understanding a story with a beginning, middle, and end with a problem and/or conflict with a solution.


  • 500 - Construction pipes (24 cm)
  • 200 - 2-Legged Strawbee
  • 200 - 3-Legged Strawbee
  • 200 - 5-Legged Strawbee
  • 200 - 1/2 sized Construction pipes


  1. Place containers of materials to the side of the room until students are ready to build.
  2. Before starting the lesson, for younger students that may have difficulty connecting Strawbees together you can prebuild moving joints, 6-Legged Strawbees, friction locks, and more to help your students expand their building.

Lesson Steps

1. Welcome

5 minutes

Greet your students with a new activity of helping friends find their way out of a forest. In the last lesson students were able to freely build with Strawbees and construction pipes, which they will be able to exercise once more. They will be able to listen to the story for the character lost in the woods. Let your students know as they listen to the story, to think about the types of tools or inventions they will make. They will be exploring making shapes that will move.

2. What are Tools?

10 minutes

Ask your students what are examples of tools they use and what they do. If you are able, find examples of tools such as a hammer, an umbrella or anything you can find.

Let your class know that a tool is something which helps accomplish a task, but it is not a substitute for the person doing the task. It can be extremely simple such as a hammer that can hit nails or rotated around to remove them, a shovel to remove dirt from the ground to find something buried or even to move dirt to another spot to make a hill. Tools are useful and can be used to help get something done. Sometimes a task emerges suddenly that we can't complete on our own and need a tool that is stronger or better suited for the task. An example to share with the class is if we need to remove a lot of dirt from one spot to another. Share with your class that instead of using a hand shovel you can use a machine found in construction sites, called a Backhoe Excavator to dig and move large loads of dirt faster!

Ask your class if they could make a tool, what would it do?

3. Story Time: Lost in the Forest

15 minutes


Before passing out materials, you can have your students gather in a circle or remain at their desks. Reading this story will introduce the challenge to your students.

On a cool, spring afternoon Ley stepped outside and took a breath of fresh air from the house porch.

"The weather is nice for a nature walk today. I have plenty of time today for an adventure." Ley packed a backpack with snacks, bottles of water, a sketchbook, and a magnifying glass for observing things found in the forest. One of Ley's favorite hobbies was sketching in the forest, this always helped Ley stay creative and open to new ideas going on these walks.

After packing the backpack, Ley ventured forth into the forest for a couple hours. Today, in particular, was a good day. During this walk Ley sketched 11 types of plants, 5 trees, 2 woodland creatures, and 3.5 types of rocks, nearly filling up the sketchbook.

However, when Ley was ready to go home the area no longer looked familiar.

"I think I'm a little lost!" said Ley. Looking around, Ley pondered for a moment. "Maybe I can find something to help me find my way home."

Looking through the backpack, Ley realized that there was no compass or a map packed. Reaching into one of the backpack's pockets and found Strawbees tucked away from building with Mio the other day.

"So useful to always have Strawbees! Maybe I can use these to build a tool to help me find my way home." thought Ley, looking around. There was only a few more hours until the sun went down and it was dinner time! It was hard designing a tool with little resources! Though Ley knew it was going to be hard, but it was worth a try. Should we make something to help navigate? Or something that helps gather food first for energy? Even protect against the hot sun?

Ask your students: what tool can Ley design with Strawbees to help make it home easier?

Alternative: if you would rather present the challenge and give your students more time to build you can introduce the challenge as Ley went for a nature walk in the forest to sketch, but hiked off the regular trail that Ley got lost! Using Strawbees, what tool can Ley build to find a way home?

4. Making Tools

45 minutes


Let them know that these tools are a simple idea and do not have to perform the exact task. Let students know they will be showing their tool to the class and can act it out if needed. Pass out Strawbees and construction pipes for students to begin brainstorming what tools will help Ley out. Share different types of ideas without giving too much context. Share that navigational tools help find direction (compasses, GPS, a map), transportation helps someone reach a point quickly (a bicycle, comfortable hiking boots), and more!

Like Ley in the story, have sheets of paper to the side if they need to brainstorm an idea, otherwise pass out materials to students are allowed to directly start building once materials.

You can also give your students the following creative prompts to work with if they need inspiration:

Make something that can be used at night. Make a tool that can keep Ley's hands free to perform a task. Something that prevents Ley from getting wet. A way to transport Ley home. A way to find the North Star. A wearable to protect Ley from getting too hot. Something that tells time.

5. Sharing and Reflection

45 minutes


As your students complete the working prototypes of their tools to help Ley, have your students place all Strawbees and construction pipes back into containers so their Strawbees tools are only left for story time.

Have your students share their inventions around the class in a circle or sitting at their desk. For additional fun have them even stand up and role play how the tools work and show a classmate! If you have time, ask your students what they would want to add to their tool to improve it. They can share their tools with the starting sentence, "This is a ____ and the task it completes is ____."

After sharing, list of the examples and types of tools that were made. Ask your students if they were in Ley's situation, what tools would they bring to prevent themselves from getting lost?