Landforms STEM Challenge - Print and Paperless Bundle

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    If you’re looking to apply learning in landforms, weathering & erosion, plate tectonics & more, this STEM / STEAM challenge is a perfectly engaging way to get the job done joyfully!

    The basic premise:

    Students work individually or in partners/groups against a list of criteria and constraints to create the nonliving surface (geosphere & hydrosphere) of the fictional planet, Planetopia.


    Resource includes:

    NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8

    Teacher Tips

    • Links to a video walk-through of the challenge & my 5-part video series on getting started with STEM challenges
    • Premise & Set-up
    • Materials and timing
    • Modifying Criteria & Constraints to adjust challenge difficulty
    • Measuring results
    • Post-design extension activities list & links

    Student Handouts

    • Criteria and Constraints list (two editable versions in color and B&W)
    • Design Analysis Handouts (in color and B&W in two versions: 4-page expanded room for response and 2-page condensed space version for older students)
    • Discussion Questions (in color and B&W)

    Extension templates

    • Planetopia Surface Features Spotlight
    • Layers of Earth
    • Layers of Earth & Earth’s Atmosphere
    • Rock Notes
    • Rock Cycle
    • Pangaea Activity
    • Process flow map
    • Create & solve math problems based on designs
    • Planetopia Landforms Writing Templates

    Plus, you'll get the 1:1 version for use with Google Slides (TM). See the previews of each resource above for details.

    Feel free to reach out using the Product Q&A tab.


    Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified. You can select a subset of the materials below and/or add your own ideas. As with all challenges, the more varied the materials, the more varied the designs!

    Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

    • Foam board for parcel base (~ 12x12 in. per student)
    • Construction paper
    • Pipe cleaners
    • Cardboard scraps
    • Tissue paper
    • Foil
    • Scissors
    • Glue and/or tape
    • Small rocks
    • Raffia, moss, yarn
    • Cotton


    • Crayola Model Magic or clay
    • Sequins, beans, pasta, beads
    • Paint
    • Craft sticks
    • Plastic beads
    • Pom poms
    • Felt or fabric scraps
    • Sand Paper
    • Small cups and/or bowls
    • Hot glue gun
    • Rubber bands
    • Paperclips
    • Toothpicks
    • Coffee stirrers
    • Colored sand


    Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!

    Total Pages
    Answer Key
    Teaching Duration
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    to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
    Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
    Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
    Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
    Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
    Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.


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