A Study of Measurement to Build a Specialized Carrying Case

There are many specialty carrying cases.  Musicians require specific cases for their instruments, architects required special containers for their building plans, and we even have specific trash receptacles to allow for automated trucks picking up trash.  In this unit, students will be challenged to design their own specialized carrying case.  They will begin with some practice tinkering to make an object.  They will then work through lessons on measurement, and choose materials to aid in their design of a carrying case for the object they make.

Each of the following lessons in this unit builds student skills or understanding.  Students will then use these skills or knowledge when working through the final design challenge.  Lessons will include guides for class discussions, student practice, and construction tasks.  Look in the tabs to the right of each lesson for a quick guide to what you may need, including materials, professional preparation, student learning targets, student resources, and assessment ideas.

Concepts students will explore in this unit:

  • Measuring: what can we measure? What is data?
  • Measuring length and width
  • Strengths vs. weaknesses of a design based on how an object performs as intended
  • Measuring weight and volume (optional)


NGSS 2-PS1-2: Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose. [Clarification Statement: Examples of properties could include, strength, flexibility, hardness, texture, and absorbency.][Assessment Boundary: Assessment of quantitative measurement is limited to length]

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT. 2.MD.A.1: Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT. 2.MD.A.4: Measure to determine how much longer one object is than another, expressing the length difference in terms of a standard length unit.

This lesson could be a whole group teacher-facilitated discussion, or students may discuss in groups.  To aid in student-lead discussions, you may choose to have students use a recording sheet.  A sample can be found in the student resources tab to the right.

Activity: Group Discussion

Lead students through the following ideas and questions.

People use various types of carrying cases for many different items.  Ask students if they can think of some examples.  Use the following questions to get students started thinking.

  • How do musicians carry their instruments?  
  • How do travelers carry their belongings?  
  • How do pirates carry their bounty?

Ask students to consider carrying cases they use daily at school.  Pencil boxes, crayon boxes, backpacks, lunch boxes, shoes, etc.  Push their thinking further by asking them to consider the design of these carrying cases.

  • How is each item designed to protect what is inside?  
  • How is each designed to fit the contents?  Ex: lunch boxes may be insulted, washable, appropriate size to fit sandwiches.  

Students will be creating an object using the makerspace/various recycled materials, and will need to design a case to both protect and carry this object.


Professional Preparation

Optional: Have an example carrying case ready for students to consider.  The more specialized the case, the more design elements they will be able to discuss.

Student Resources


Students’ first goal is to become comfortable with the makerspace by constructing an original object.

Guided Discovery:

To help students fully explore their makerspace tools and resources, teachers lead a guided discovery of the space and/or materials.  Here are some possible questions to guide the class:

  • Pick an object. (whole group, then individually) What can it be used for? How many radically different uses can you brainstorm?
  • How can we connect different objects? What would create a flexible joint? What would create a solid joint?
  • What if a material you want to use is too big? Too small?
  • Where will you store projects you are still working on? Finished projects?

Individual Student Activity:

Have students tinker in the makerspace, and ask them to think about what they can make.

  • Have students construct an object that is interesting to them personally.  It can be useful, entertaining, inspirational, or it can be a representation of something, such as a character in a book the class has been reading.



  • Miscellaneous building materials as found in a makerspace, or most any recycled materials.

Teacher Tips

  • Students can approach this with a great deal of freedom, however, depending on your space, you may want to set size limits.

Professional Preparation

  • Access to makerspace
  • Consider where students will store their creations, as they will need them again for the design challenge.

In this lesson, students will practice measuring lengths by measuring different things with non-standard measuring tools.

This lesson begins with a discussion on measurement, followed by a demonstration to highlight potential errors students may encounter, and then students will practice measuring.


To engage students, and help guide them towards understanding the importance of precise measurement, begin by asking students to think about why they might want to measure something. “Why would it be useful to measure your foot? A piece of wood? The size of a doorway?”

Next, ask students to brainstorm what objects they might use to measure lengths.  We will look at standard units in the next lesson.  For this lesson, steer students towards non-standard measuring devices.  For example, you could measure your forearm with a bottle cap, or the doorway with your shoe.  Ask students to predict what might make for a good measuring tool, and what would be difficult to measure with.


Use a non-standard measuring tool to demonstrate how students will measure.  You can continue with the previous example, and measure your arm with a bottle cap.  Move it along your arm, counting how many lengths of the bottle cap you need.  You could also measure a doorway with your shoe.

Note common errors for students to avoid such as:

  • Beware extra space.  When moving your measuring tool, make sure it is lined up with no extra space.  Using a pencil mark, or piece of tap can help with this.  Beware, if you use a friend’s finger, that finger will take up space you should be measuring.
  • Beware if you are using multiple of the same measuring tool, the second should be touching the first.  For example, if you are using your shoes, the heel of the second should be touching the toe of the first.
  • Beware curving lines, and edges.  Start from one edge of what your are measuring, and move in a straight line to the opposite edge.

Activity: Student practice

Encourage students to choose a varied selection of non-standard measuring tools, and a varied selection of objects to measure.

Show students how your class will be recording their measurements as they work.  If you have maker journals, this is a great opportunity for students to record there.  You may also choose to use the example chart found in the student resources tab.


If time allows, students may benefit from sharing their findings.

  • Ask for example of measuring tools that worked well, and those that did not work well.
  • Ask students if they had any very different measurements from classmates.  Should this be the case, it is a perfect opportunity for students to work out what went wrong, so that the class can avoid this error in future measurements.


Miscellaneous materials with a range of size from about 1″ to 2′

Professional Preparation

Consider what non-standard measuring tool you will use to demonstrate for students.

Optional: Print the measuring chart from Student Resources tab

Student Resources


Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to measure lengths with non-standard units.

In this lesson students will practice measuring with precision and selecting the appropriate tool to measure.  They will also make their own measuring tool based off a standard unit of measurement.

Guided Discovery/Look Closely:

Begin this lesson with time for students to look closely at various measuring tools to gain familiarity.  This can work well as a guided discovery.

  • Invite students to look closely at a measuring tool. This could be a meter stick, yardstick, ruler, etc. Ask them to think about what all the markings mean.  Tell students to consider all marking, including different sized lines, numbers, and any words or abbreviations.
  • Ask students to find the largest measurement on their measuring tool? Ex: is it a meter, a yard, a foot?  Encourage students to think of 3 things you might measure using this unit.  For example, if they are considering a meter stick, what would you measure in meters?  Note, they will look at smaller units next, so they are not looking for things to measure within a meter stick size, but instead, something that would take multiple meter to measure such as a room’s length, or the width of a playground.
  • Ask students to find the next largest unit on their measuring tool.  Is it a decimeter, inch, etc.? Encourage students to think of something they might measure using this unit.
  • Ask students to find the smallest unit on your measuring tool?  Encourage students to think of something they might measure using this unit.
  • Once students have gained familiarity with this measuring tool, give students some practice thinking about what exact unit would be appropriate to measure different items.  For example, ask students what would happen if you measured your hand in meters.  Is your hand 1/6 of a meter?  1/5 of a meter?  How can centimeters help us to be more precise?  Would you need/want to use millimeters?  Give students multiple example of things you could measure, and ask them to think about what unit may give them a precise measurement.

Guided Discover/Looking Closely:

Now you will guide students in an exploration of various different measuring tools including metric vs. imperial measurements.

  • Have students look closely at various measuring tools in your learning space.  Ex: ruler, tape measure, meter stick, t-square, protractor, etc.
  • Ask students to draw conclusions from their observations.  “How can measuring tools differ?”  “What is something you might measure with each?”
  • This is a great opportunity to show students the difference between metric measurements of length and imperial measurements.  Demonstrate by comparing a yardstick to a meter stick, and/or inches to centimeters.


  • Remind students of their measuring practice with non-standard units in lesson 3 of this unit.
  • Direct students to now re-measure each of the objects they previously measured.  This time, instead of using various improvised objects as measuring tools, challenge students to choose a measuring tool that will measure with the most accuracy.  Students should consider the size and shape of the object they are measuring when choosing their tool.
  • Students can record their standard unit measurements as a new column in their recording sheet from the previous lesson.

Build a Measuring Tool:

  • Invite students to think about the object they built in lesson 2.  “What tool would help you measure it precisely?”
  • Challenge students to make their own measuring tool to best fit their object’s dimensions.  This will give them a chance to work with standard units, while also thinking critically about the tools they choose to best complete a task.
  • Guidelines for students as they complete this exercise:
    1. Your tool must be in standard units.  For example: If a ruler would be the best tool for you to use, you could find a stiff piece of cardboard, and using an existing ruler, copy the exact markings of inches, and partial inches.  You now have your own measuring tool to help you design a carrying case for your object.
    2. Think about whether or not your tool needs to be flexible, how large it needs to be, and if you will be able to store it for later use.




  • Meter and/or yardstick or ruler
  • Variety of measuring tools. Ex: rule, tape measure, meter stick, t-square, protractor…
  • Miscellaneous building materials as found in a makerspace.

Core Concept Review

Vocabulary for students: Metric (centimeters, meters) vs. Imperial (inches, feet)

Professional Preparation

  • If not easily accessible in the classroom, collect a variety of measuring tools.

Student Resources

Learning Targets

  • Understanding of precision in regards to measurement
  • Students are able to select appropriate measuring tools


Observation: Did the student choose an appropriate tool to measure their object?  Will the standard units they chose allow for accuracy in measurements?

Before building a carrying case (or anything!), students will need to decide what materials will be best suited to both carry and protect their object.  In this lesson, students will be asked to consider what qualities are important when choosing their building materials.

Guiding Questions: Inspire students to think carefully about the materials in their space with these guiding questions.

  • Ask students to choose a material from your makerspace.  It could be paper, fabric, cardboard, or anything else that may be used to build a carrying case.
  • How strong is this material?  How much weight could it hold?
  • How durable is this material?  How long will it last?  Will it hold up getting wet?
  • How flexible is this material?  Can it bend?  Does it remain stiff?
  • Can the material be modified?  Can you cut it?  Bend it, and have it stay bent?  Glue it?  Can it be modified with the tools you already have in your space?


  • Ask students to devise trials that will test each material for strength, durability, flexibility, and ability to be modified.
  • Grouping ideas for this activity:
    • Students could complete this task in groups where each group creates a single trial.  The whole class then uses that trial.  In this scenario, one group would create a trial for strength, another would create a trial for durability, a third would create a trial for flexibility, and a fourth would create a trial for determining if materials can be modified.
    • Students could complete this task in groups where each group creates 4 trials.  One trial each for strength, durability, flexibility, and ability to be modified.  In this scenario, students also have the opportunity to compare trials and reflect upon what worked best.
  • Once the trials are created, students will then test different materials to determine what they might want to use in building their carrying case.
  • Optional: Have students consider cost.  Do students know how much the material costs?  Ask them to figure out how much of a materials the will need to complete their project, and how much that might cost.  Encourage students to think about whether or not they will deplete resources in your community.



  • Miscellaneous building materials as found in a makerspace

Professional Preparation

Optional: Choose some materials to demonstrate with the class how they might test for strength, etc.

Student Resources

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to test materials for properties (strength, flexibility) and compare

For the design challenge of this unit, students will build a custom carrying case to protect and carry the object they made while tinkering in the makerspace.

Review of Lessons:

Remind students of the lessons from this unit, and the knowledge that may be useful in this task.

  • Students will need to measure carefully and with precision to ensure their object fits securely in their case.
  • Students will need to test materials so they use something which functions well as a carrying case.
  • Review any safety rules that may be applicable depending on tools students can use.  Ex: Remember to never leave a glue gun unattended, or always remember eye-protection when cutting/drilling…

776294-r2-22Guidelines for Student Building Challenge:

When students are ready to start creating, give them the following guidelines.

  • The case must protect your object without squishing it, or letting it be jostled.
  • Your case must function well to protect your object, while remaining easy to transport.
  • Once you have designed and built your carrying case, remember to test it.  Make alterations to your design as necessary.


  • Miscellaneous building materials as found in a makerspace
  • Student designed and built measuring tools

Core Concept Review

Vocabulary for students: Dimensions are the measurable areas of an object, such as length, width, height, or circumference

Professional Preparation

Consider where students will store their carrying cases within your learning space

  • Does the carrying case show careful measurements so that it fits the object without extra room, or too tight a fit?
  • Does the material chosen for the case serve its function to both transport easily, and to protect the contents?