By Rachael Albon

Science is about thinking creatively to try to explain how living and non-living things work, and to establish links between causes and effects” STEM Learning 2019

One of the Wild Challenge activities is to build a home for a mammal. There are a range of options to complete this challenge from buying a bat box or hedgehog home to building one and we, as the RSPB, have provided a step by step guide which is available to download from the Wild Challenge web page...

  but…  how about turning this challenge into a STEM activity?

Use this opportunity to develop the children’s Engineering Habits of Mind (developed by the Centre for Real World Learning and Royal Academy of Engineering).

Challenge your class to work collaboratively to design and produce a hedgehog house in your school grounds!

Give children (individuals, pairs or groups) large pieces of sugar paper and pens and challenge them to 'design a hedgehog house suitable for a hedgehog to use throughout the year.' If they haven't seen the image the RSPB have provided then they will not base their ideas on this model. You will notice more originality of thought. Once they have thrashed out some ideas together, highlight a group who have worked in a logical way. Have any groups firstly considered what a hedgehog needs from a home? (are children demonstrating a metacognitive approach by planning together first?)

They will need to consider the practical implications of its design; the materials it is made from, how it is fitted together, the location it should be positioned and the size - how suited to the user is it? etc during this planning stage. 

Below are some of the main curricular subject areas this style of activity delivers outcomes for;


  • Children will need a knowledge and understanding of both habitats (+food chains) and materials to plan an effective design for a home and where to position it.
  • This could be a good opportunity to encourage evaluative discussion and critical thinking during the planning stages.
  • Environmental impacts of the materials chosen should be evaluated critically by the children

Technology & Engineering-

  • Knowledge and understanding of materials inform the structure of the design; how the children will secure it together? how they will ensure it isn’t destroyed by rain damage? etc.
  • Children may think to explore how the house would support weight; the weight of sticks and leaves used as camouflage etc.Children may want to include moving parts such as flaps etc but will need to consider the usability for a hedgehog. This might be achieved by creating a prototype to test on.
  • The practical implications such as the impact on the user and the process to secure this would need to be considered.Children may want to look to designs they have experienced elsewhere to draw inspiration. This could be where children look at the range of designs available to buy and to build- our website has a selection.
  • Children may want to include information technology to support their design process.


    • Measuring will need to be accurate to ensure the product will fit the intended user; both in the planning stages of their design and in the practical application of producing the product.
    • Areas and perimeters will be relevant when planning for and sourcing materials; plus when deciding the location for their product.


    The Benefits

    By conducting this Wild Challenge activity in this STEM-focused child-led way, the children can take ownership for their contribution to helping wildlife in their school and benefit from the high-quality learning opportunity it provides. The teacher can act as a facilitator by asking questions to prompt consideration where needed - or don't...let the children continue to work through until it becomes apparent to them that they have missed something and they are forced to reconsider. This promotes a metacognitive approach to their learning by having to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning. Working in this way also allows for peer feedback to flourish.