skip to main content
NSW Syllabuses

STEM Early Stage 1 – Activity 1

Wearing it out

Description of activity

Students design and create a collage displaying the materials that could be used to make a superhero's clothes.

This activity could take up to 1 hour. If a story is read and discussion about superheroes and heroes follows, it may take longer.


Students know that clothing is usually made from material or fabric and that there are different types of materials or fabrics. Students investigate a range of different materials and identify their properties. They design and draw a superhero of their choice. Their superhero is required to perform a variety of superhero activities and must have clothing that will help them perform these activities. Students are to choose materials to make these clothes, create a collage of their superhero with the materials chosen, and explain why the materials are appropriate for the task.



STe-4WS explores their immediate surroundings by questioning, observing using their senses and communicating to share their observations and ideas
STe-5WT uses a simple design process to produce solutions with identified purposes
MAe-3WM uses concrete materials and/or pictorial representations to support conclusions

Knowledge and understanding

STe-9ME identifies that objects are made of materials that have observable properties
STe-10ME recognises how familiar products, places and spaces are made to suit their purpose
MAe-10MG describes and compares areas using everyday language



  • Blank A4 paper, pencils and erasers
  • Glue sticks, scissors
  • Samples of different materials and fabrics (enough for collaging), eg cardboard, cellophane, rubber, aluminium foil, denim, poly cotton, netting, velvet/velveteen, rayon, wool, etc

Work, health and safety

Check relevant Work, health and safety guidelines.

Evidence of work for assessment purposes

  • A collage showing the different materials used for the clothes worn by a superhero.
  • The materials should be labelled explaining why they were chosen.

STEM teaching and learning activities

  • Observations can be made using four of the five senses: sight, hearing, touch and smell (Note: we rarely use taste in scientific observations).
  • Students identify properties of materials, eg flexible, elastic, keeps you warm or cool, durable, protective, by carrying out simple tests on the materials.
  • Students sort the materials according to their properties.
  • Read a story and/or show a cartoon/photo/video of a superhero performing different amazing rescues and ask the students to consider what sort of clothing their particular superhero needs to help them use their superpowers. Emphasise that their clothing needs to protect the superhero and not be destroyed as the superhero does different things.
  • Students design and draw an outline diagram of clothing that their superhero would need.
  • Students re-sort the materials and choose materials which are suitable for their superhero with his/her powers.
  • Students show how they are relating the materials to the specific superpowers (or specific acts the superhero may perform).
  • Students compare the size of their materials to the size of their drawing by superimposing the material over the drawing.
  • Students select appropriate-sized and appropriate-shaped piece(s) of their chosen materials, scissors and glue. Students cut and paste the materials onto their superhero drawing making a collage.
  • Students label each different material and explain why this type of material is used.
  • Students present their work and give feedback on other students’ designs.

Vocabulary list

Property – a quality or characteristic of something (not a possession or house). Words used to identify properties: flexible, inflexible, elastic, protective, waterproof, shiny
Material – the matter from which something is made, eg fabric, metal, wood
Texture – the feel of the material
Brittle – a substance that breaks easily
Area – the amount of space inside a boundary
Surface – the outside layer of an object

Key inquiry questions

Describe this material
Encourage the use of specific words relating to the properties of the material. Encourage the use of senses other than visual and tactile, eg does it make a sound when it moves?

Would you use this material to make clothing?
Encourage the student to justify their choices. What is it about the material that makes it suitable for the purpose? What sort of clothing could you use this for? Where would you wear that clothing? What would you be doing?

How much material would you need to cover that part of your drawing?
Encourage students to predict whether one area is bigger or smaller than another. Demonstrate how one surface is bigger than another by comparing directly, superimposing or superpositioning the two surfaces.

Additional information

The following words outline some common preconceived ideas that many students hold, which are scientifically inaccurate and may impede student understanding.

The word 'material' has a specific meaning in the context of clothing, to mean the fabric (or other substance) used in the clothing. More generally, 'material' means any substance which can be used in a product. For example, the materials used in windows can include glass, wood, aluminium, zinc-coated steel, paint, etc.

The word 'property' is often taken to mean someone’s possession, house or land. In terms of Science, 'property' refers to a characteristic of a substance. For example, glass is hard, transparent and can break easily.

Support materials


  • YouTube video: Austin's Butterfly showing how students can provide effective feedback to improve work
  • Lift Off–Fly Boy short film introducing the concept of a superhero: available through Scootle

Possible images

  • Photo/cartoon/brief story of a hero/superhero rescuing people from a burning building, a sunken ship, an underground mine
  • Rescue Fire: firefighters had to focus their efforts on saving the adjacent church instead of this burning building, an abandoned convent in Massueville, Quebec, Canada
  • Rescue Ship: coast guard cutter Escanaba (WPG-77) rescues Dorchester survivors, February 3, 1943
  • Rescue Mine: cave rescue team transporting an injured caver with a dislocated ankle

Student interactive

BBC Bitesize: Properties of Materials

Adjustments for the diversity of learners

Brainstorm with students the needs of living things, eg a superhero may be able to swim underwater for long periods of time, why can't we?

Investigate some local heroes, eg firefighters, paramedics, surf life savers. Invite them to talk to students to describe what they do and any special equipment or clothing that they require.

Students may design tools/equipment that the superhero needs to help them with their superpowers. Students can be challenged to justify their choice, and relate it to an ability people do not have. For example, flippers to help people swim underwater quickly, or wings so that they can fly.

Use a collage-making app for a smart tablet device to explore this activity digitally.


In this STEM activity, your students will have recognised and described properties of matter. Students will gain an understanding of the properties of matter which will help students in learning about Chemistry. Students will have participated in the practical experiences of comparing surface areas, which is a complex idea that many students have difficulty with in senior Biology courses.