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Design Thinking


K, 1st, 2nd


Science, Social Studies, Visual and Performing Arts, Engineering


160 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

Catching the Wind

Created By Teachers:
Last Updated:
Feb 20, 2024
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In this lesson, students explore the work of engineers, learn about wind energy, and create a model of a windmill.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students learn what engineers do through an engineering challenge and activate background knowledge about energy.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students learn how William Kamkwamba engineered wind energy to help his community in Malawi and investigate how wind can be transformed into energy that we can use in our homes.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students experiment with shape and form to create a model of a windmill.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson integrates engineering, art, and science. Students can see the connection between these subjects in intent, procedure, and product.

  • This lesson may be incorporated into an art unit or an engineering unit.

  • Students have multiple opportunities to collaborate with peers.

Additional Prerequisites

  • For more information on how to lead See, Think, Wonder, please read this article from Project Zero.

  • Students should have some experience in simple model building and collaboration to complete the engineering challenges. 

  • Each group will need 25 paper cups to complete the engineering challenge in the Inspire section. 

  • Gather windmill materials listed in the Teacher Document before class.

  • If using centers as alternatives or in addition to activities, gather and print the materials listed in Centers & Student Materials before class.

  • Visit your library to obtain a copy of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer, and Elizabeth Zunon.


  • An engineering center is provided in Centers & Student Materials as an alternative to the engineering challenge in the Inquire section.

  • If students already have a strong background knowledge in engineering and/or citizenship, teacher may choose to skip the activities in the Inquire and Investigate sections that introduce these standards.

  • There are several opportunities throughout the lesson to engage younger students in more age-appropriate versions of the lesson’s activities, including centers.

  • Early finishers can color a coloring sheet that shows different types of energy found on page 3 of this Climate Science resource.

  • During the sketchnoting activity in the Investigate section, students may draw as the teacher reads about how a wind turbine works, or they can assemble the wind turbine puzzle found in Centers & Student Materials.
Scientist Notes

This lesson challenges students to think about the best engineering concepts for wind energy solutions. It offers doable actions so they can understand the creation and distribution of wind energy to residences. After a careful evaluation, the instruction was found to be credible in terms of science.


Note On Standards:

This lesson is aligned to Wisconsin standards. Review the aligned standards directly in the lesson plan document and teacher slideshow.

Discover more on the Wisconsin Climate Education Hub.
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