Lunar and Planetary Institute

Playful Building
EXPLORE! Playful Building


Use the Implementation Guide to plan your approach to any and all of the Playful Building activities.  It offers a facilitation outline to help you organize your presentation; facilitator background information and a shopping list to help you prepare for your program; supporting media lists; and correlations to National Science Education Standards. From there, use the step-by-step activity guides to explore the central idea of an imagined community park:

Participants are invited to imagine the park of their dreams! In small groups, they place moveable pieces on a grid, iterating on their plan together to create a plan for a community park.

Activity 1:  Design a Park
How-to Video:  Design a Park

Participants explore how different types of simple machines can be used for fun at a community park. They are challenged to create a simple human machine that transports a bean bag. Many groups solve the challenge with a slide — an inclined plane or an inclined plane that has been twisted into a screw shape — made of their hands. They plan, design, test, and revise a boat (with a bow that serves as a wedge, cutting through water) and update that playground classic, the seesaw (a type of lever).

Activity 2:  Team Machine
How-to Video:  Team Machine

Activity 3:  Water Wedges
How-to Video:  Water Wedges
Step-by-step instructions for folding an origami boat:

Activity 4:  Levers at Play
How-to Video:  Levers at Play

Power and Protect
Families or groups of children are challenged to solve two problems that they might face in a community park: providing clean water and supplying electricity (such as for lighting along paths and trails). They explore and test common materials to identify the best low-tech materials that can be used to help filter water for a pond, water playground, pool, or other recreational water feature. In another activity, explore and test common materials to modify model wind turbines to better catch the wind.

Activity 5:  Low-tech Water Filter for High-impact Clean
How-to Video:  Low-tech Water Filter for High-impact Clean

Activity 6:  Wind Turbine Tech Challenge
How-to Video:  Wind Turbine Tech Challenge

All Playful Building materials are also available free for educational use at

Last updated
June 2, 2015