Clairbourn School’s First Grade Nest Engineering Design Challenge

First grade students at Clairbourn in Mrs. Watt’s class were presented with an engineering challenge to make a bird’s nest that could hold one egg and a baby bird. They began by learning about biomimicry, copying or imitating natural systems, and studied how birds make nests.

The students collected a variety of materials from the campus field, playground, and natural areas (twigs, grass, mud, leaves, and moss). Each child conceived their own nest design, and then as a group voted on the design they would actually build.

In science lab, students were given 40 minutes to build the nests. Starting with a mud and twig foundation, the nests were slowly built up…getting larger and larger as time went on. During the activity, students practiced their verbal communication skills and cooperation.

Each student had a job to carry out (speaker, recorder, timekeeper and materials manager). The final leg of the challenge was to test the sturdiness of the nests in an actual tree.

Each nest was loaded with the bird and egg while the time-keeper watched to see if the nest could hold its payload for a full minute. If successful, a second egg was added for an additional minute.

All the nests withstood the first test as well as the bonus-round test, and afterwards, the students were beaming with pride over successfully meeting the challenge.

Click here to see the entire slideshow of the nest-building activity.

Clairbourn School, 8400 Huntington Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 286-3108 or visit


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