Activity: A House is a House for Me



Students brainstorm and discuss the different types of materials used to build houses in various climates. Small models of houses are built and tested against different climates.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY [1 = Least Difficult : 5 = Most Difficult]



45 minutes for building and 30 minutes for testing


$1.50 - $2.00 per student


1.1 Identify materials used to accomplish a design task based on a specific property (i.e., weight, strength, hardness and flexibility).
2.1 Identify a problem that reflects the need for shelter, storage, or convenience.
2.3 Identify relevant design features (i.e., size, shape, weight) for building a prototype of a solution to a given problem.

The impact climates have on the building of structures
Details about several types of climates
Basic structural design
Basic experimental skills

CLIMATE: a region with specified weather conditions; the average weather conditions of a particular place or region over a period of years
ADOBE: a brick or building material made of a sun-dried mixture of earth and straw
IGLOO: an Eskimo house usually made of wood, sod, or stone when permanent or of blocks of snow or ice in the form of a dome when built for temporary use
PAGODA: a Far Eastern tower of several stories erected as a temple or memorial
TEPEE: a cone-shaped tent usually of skins used as a home by some Native Americans
LODGE: a house set apart for residence in a special season
WIGWAMS: a hut of the Native Americans of the Great Lakes region and eastward that usually has an arched frame of poles covered with bark, rush mats, or hides
HUT: a small and often temporary dwelling or shelter
TREEHOUSE: a structure (as a playhouse) built among the branches of a tree

People in different parts of the world have different materials that they can use to build their homes and other structures. When building a home, they have to think of how to use these materials to build a house that will work well for where and how they live. In the southwestern part of the United States, where there is a lot of clay and little wood, people build houses from adobe, a mixture of clay, straw, and water. Adobe houses have very thick walls which keep the houses cool in the hot dry desert weather. Adobe houses would not be good in places where it rains a lot because too much water makes adobe crumble. The weather in certain tropical islands in the Pacific ocean is hot, but wet. People who live there make their homes from materials that are easy to find such a palm leaves, woven grasses, and bamboo. Sometimes they build the houses on stilts to keep them off the wet ground and to let the breezes move under the house, helping to keep it cool. Most Eskimos in Alaska and Canada built their houses out of sod or snow. These dome-shaped houses are called igloos. The dome shape of the igloo made it very strong and able to withstand powerful winter storms. Some Native Americans used to build dome-shaped houses made of poles, leaves, and tree bark. These houses were called wigwams. Native American tribes that moved a lot often built cone-shaped tepees out of buffalo skins or bark. Tepees could be easily built and taken apart quickly. Some Native Americans lived in more permanent structures called lodges made from logs and sod. When early American settlers came to New England, they found the ground covered with large stones. They used these stones to build stone houses and fences that you still see in New England today. The northwest part of the United States and Canada have plenty of forests, so most of the houses in these areas are made of wood. In China, where there are few forests, there are hardly any wooden houses. The chinese people use tile, concrete, and stone to build beautiful pagodas and other buildings. In parts of Africa, where tall grasses grow, people weave the stems of dried grass together to make thatch huts. In Tibet, some people even make their houses out of wool! They shear the wool from ox-like animals called yaks. The wool walls keep the houses warm through the cold winter months. Most houses in the United States today are built of wood, brick, stone, concrete, aluminum, or even glass.

Resources: - Description of climates - Description of climates -Description of biomes and climates - Picture of igloo - Pictures of teepees

Hoberman, Mary Ann. A House is a House for Me. The Viking Press: New York NY, 1978.

*A good activity to coincide with this activity is "Construct and Test Roofs for Different Climates"

Hay or long grass
Popsicle Sticks
Sugar Cubes
Small Stones
Flour (snow)
Fan (wind)
Water (rain)
Hairdryer (heat)

Materials need to be gathered
Read Mary Ann Hoberman's "A House is a House for Me"


1. Have the class think about why people need houses, what materials are needed to build a house, and what the various parts of a house include.
2. Pair students, have them choose an environment where they want their house built. Have the students figure out what type of a climate their house would need to handle being in that environment. Instruct them to design and sketch a house to withstand that climate.
3. Allow each group to present their concept to the rest of the class. Have the class comment and make suggestions on each other's ideas.
4. Have the groups build their designs with the materials available.
5. Test the houses against the elements that would be appropriate for the climate they build their house to withstand.
6. Compare each of the groups' houses and discuss what materials are needed in different climates.

What different kinds of homes are you familiar with?
Why are houses around the world made of different materials?
Why do people and animals need shelter?
What types of materials are used to build houses?
What materials are best for certain climates? Why?
What would happen if the wrong materials were used for a given climate?
What does climate mean? What is a type of climate?
Which house withstood the elements best? Why?
Kessler, James H. and Andrea Bennett. The Best of WonderScience: Elementary Science Activities. Boston: Delmar Publishers. 1997. ISBN: 0827380941 p. 20*
*Adapted with permission from The Best of Wonderscience, Copyright 1997, American Chemical Society Published by Wadsworth Publishing, Inc.. If you enjoyed this activity check out, Your Science Place in Cyberspace, for free elementary physical science activities.


See Associated Download.


See Associated Download.