STEM Designing a Box Using Volume Challenge

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176 Ratings
Teachers Are Terrific
Grade Levels
4th - 6th
Resource Type
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52 +editable
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Let’s build a box! (And learn a little about volume and surface area, too!) Your students will love this terrific multi-day STEM project with many opportunities for hands-on learning.

What is the challenge?

Students will use cereal boxes and have great discussions about the appearance of the boxes, as well as how much a box contains. They will learn about volume and surface area through weighing and measurement tasks. Finally, they will take all the things they have learned and design a box. Each box begins with the same size poster board, but which box will end up having the greatest volume? Can the students apply what they have learned?

NOTE: This resource includes two versions of the activity. Version 1 will take 3-4 class sessions. Version 2 is a quicker challenge and will take 2 class sessions.


Specific parts of the activity include:

  • In the Ask step students will be introduced to the task, brainstorm about cereal boxes, and learn about special symbols found on products.
  • In the Imagine step, students will investigate volume by using a filler material to test the different amounts a box can hold. The Math that takes place is so much fun! Students will measure and calculate the volume and surface area of their boxes.
  • In the Plan and Create steps students will be given a piece of poster board and be challenged to apply what they have learned about what makes a box have a larger volume. The task is to create the box with the greatest possible volume.
  • Finally, in the Concluding step students will present their work to the entire class.

Vocabulary pages (13 words) used throughout the study are included in the form of 2 sheets that can be added to student folders. A word wall set has a strip with the word and a second strip with the meaning. A full-color word wall set is provided and a black/white set.

NOTE:The entire experience will take 3-4 class sessions to complete.

You will need supplies in addition to this package. Supplies include: Cereal boxes - in a variety of sizes; Poster board- cut in half (one-half sheet per group); Plastic containers- like a shoebox; Masking tape; Rulers, scissors, clear tape, glue sticks; Art supplies for drawing and coloring; Packing peanuts; Digital scale; and Calculators.

This package specifically contains:

  • Cover sheet
  • Table of Contents
  • Overview and Materials page
  • Poster set of the Engineering Design Process
  • 9 pages of step-by-step procedures and helpful hints for each step of the design process and lessons
  • 3 pages of photos
  • 2 Reading Selections
  • 3-page Lab Sheet set
  • Constraints of the Task Sheet
  • Things to Do While Working in Groups sheet
  • 3-page scoring rubric
  • 1-page Vocabulary sheet
  • Set of Vocabulary Word strips and meaning strips in color and a set in black and white.
  • Here’s the best news! All forms are provided in an editable format!
  • Answers for the lab sheets are not provided as these will vary so widely due to the nature of the task. However, hints provided throughout the teacher directions will guide you!

Version 2:

This version uses the same great idea of creating a new type of cereal and designing the packaging. The background information and the experiments about volume are not part of version 2. Instead, students get busy designing the cereal boxes quickly and they can finish this in two sessions.

Materials for version 2 include poster board, masking tape, rulers, glue sticks, and scrap paper.

This version specifically includes:

  • 3-page teacher's guide
  • Criteria page
  • Lab Sheet
  • Scoring Rubric
  • Photos
  • Forms are editable

No matter which version or combination of the two versions you choose, your students will love creating a new cereal and designing the packaging!


You might also like these STEM Activity sets:


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Total Pages
52 +editable
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
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.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
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.
Apply the formulas 𝘝 = 𝘭 × 𝘸 × 𝘩 and 𝘝 = 𝘣 × 𝘩 for rectangular prisms to find volumes of right rectangular prisms with whole-number edge lengths in the context of solving real world and mathematical problems.


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