Earth Day STEM Challenge Activity - New Earth City

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76 Ratings
Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
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Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
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Earth Day is the perfect time for the New Earth City STEM / STEAM challenge activity, but any other time of the year will do!

The basic premise:

It is Earth Day, and the year 2035. Earth has become overcrowded. The students are part of a pioneering crew tasked with setting up the first city (New Earth City) on Planetopia, a fictional name for a recently discovered Earth-like planet in a distant solar system. Part of the mission is to set up the city to prevent or address the problems we are having on Earth so we don’t repeat our errors on our new home planet.

– This challenge is best done in teams or partners due to time and space constraints.


Note: This is the printable version. If you are in a 1:1 / paperless classroom, you will want to check out the digital option for use with GOOGLE SLIDES (TM) instead.


Resource includes:

NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8

Teacher Tips

  • Links to STEM Challenge How-To videos
  • Materials and timing
  • Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
  • Measuring results
  • Post-design extension activities list
  • Link to a video walk-through of the challenge

Student Handouts

  • Criteria & Constraints List (two versions in color ad B&W for younger and older students; editable)
  • Data Measurement Handouts (3 versions, 4 pages each. Version 1: measure length, width, and height and find perimeter; Version 2: same as version 1 with area added; Version 3: same as Version 2 with volume added)
  • Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included in color and B&W)
  • Discussion Questions (in color and B&W)

Extension templates/worksheets

  • Measuring & Classifying triangles from New Earth City
  • Process Flow Map
  • Math Extension


Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified.

Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

  • 12 x 12 in. cardboard or foam board (serves as a parcel of Planetopia land. Feel free to go larger, but smaller is tough for students to manage)
  • Plastic shopping bags (5)
  • Pipe cleaners (12 – 24)
  • Craft sticks (5 – 10)
  • Paper or note cards
  • Scissors
  • Yarn or string
  • Rulers
  • Tape (24 – 26 in.)
  • Data Measurement & Design Analysis handouts (included)


  • Water or soda bottle lids
  • Small cups
  • Clay and/or foil
  • Coffee stirrers
  • Rubber bands
  • Glue
  • Markers


This resource is also available in the following discounted bundles:

Planetopia Project STEM Challenge Bundle
STEM Challenges: Year-Round Mega Bundle
The Ultimate STEM Challenge Mega Bundle


Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:

  • Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
  • High levels of student engagement
  • The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)
  • Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.
  • Opportunities to practice as many or few of the following math skills as desired and is age-appropriate (details included in product):
  • Measurement: sides, angles, and distances
  • Shapes: identifying 3-D solids and finding perimeter, area, volume and classifying angles and triangles
  • Fractions: Identifying fractions of a whole, and calculating/converting fractions, decimals, and percentages
  • Estimating

Each design iteration should be planned for at least 60 – 90 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. If you add extension activities, you will need to adjust timing accordingly. I recommend working on STEM Design Challenges in multiple iterations to get the full value.


See the free preview for a subset of what comes with the product. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!


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STEM Challenges: Year-Round Mega Bundle

Photosynthesis: Modeling Activity and Guided Notes Lessons

Planetopia Project STEM Challenge Bundle

Getting Started with STEM Challenges: FREEBIE

Characteristics of Living Things - Cells

Cells: A Fresh Take on Organelle Functions


Video preview music credit:

"Carefree" Kevin MacLeod (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Total Pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
90 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.


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