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NSW Syllabuses

STEM Early Stage 1 – Activity 2


birds nest with eggs

Description of activity

Students are to design and make a container that will carry and protect three hen's eggs.

The suggested time for this activity is approximately 1 hour.


Students know that birds lay eggs, protect their eggs until they hatch and then feed and protect their young in a nest. They will observe and investigate the structure and characteristics of birds' nests and discuss the need for many animals to protect and shelter their young.



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-2WM uses objects, actions, technology and/or trial and error to explore mathematical problems

Knowledge and understanding

STe-8NE identifies the basic needs of living things
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-11MG describes and compares the capacities of containers and the volumes of objects or substances using everyday language
MAe-12MG describes and compares the masses of objects using everyday language



  • Samples, pictures or images of birds' nests
  • Information concerning birds found in your local area
  • Samples of materials that could be used to construct bird's nests.

Work, health and safety

  • Be aware that students may have food allergies that can result in anaphylaxis.
  • Check relevant Work, health and safety guidelines.

Evidence of work for assessment purposes

A labelled sketch and a photograph of a model of a bird’s nest that can hold three hen's eggs

STEM teaching and learning activities

  • Discuss what various animals need to survive, particularly the importance of shelter and protection for the young.
  • Observe a range of birds' nests (ideally of birds in your local area).
  • Examine/research the materials that birds use to make their nests.
  • Discuss the variety of nest structures as shown in '10 Amazing Facts about Birds' Nests' or similar resources.
  • Observe a range of images of birds' eggs, comparing size and mass.
  • Discuss the differences in the size and structure of nests that would be needed to safely hold, for example, three hen's eggs or three emu eggs (or similar).
  • Students, in groups, design and make a bird’s nest that would safely hold and protect three hen's eggs.

Vocabulary list

Hatch – when a young bird breaks open an egg and emerges
Incubate – when a bird sits on eggs in order to keep them warm and bring hatch them
Nesting – the behaviour of building and caring for a nest for the protection of young
Volume – the amount of space an object occupies
Capacity – how much a container will hold
Area – the amount of space inside a boundary

Key inquiry questions

Why do you think birds use certain materials to build their nests?
Guide students to the ideas of availability, support, cushioning, temperature regulation or protection.

If you were to use made materials instead of natural materials to build a nest:

  • Which ones would you use? Why?
  • How would it change your nest?

Encourage students to justify their choices.

Additional information

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

Birds are not animals
In fact, birds are animals (as are insects, fish, worms and humans). Birds are warm-blooded animals. This means that they are able to control their body temperature (like humans and other mammals). Their temperature is not controlled by the environment, like reptiles or fish.

Birds have teeth in their beaks
Birds do not have teeth. The characteristics of having a beak and no teeth identify a living thing as a bird.

Birds fly south for the winter
This is a northern hemisphere idea. Some birds do migrate in search of necessary resources, protection from the cold and for mating. Generally Australian environmental conditions, during winter, are not severe enough to force large scale migration away from the Australian continent. We are more likely to be the destination for a number of migratory birds from the northern hemisphere.

Support materials

Adjustments for the diversity of learners

Building the bird's nest could be a group or whole-of-class activity.

Design a bird's nest for an emu or 'Big Bird' from Sesame Street. How big would it need to be in relation to birds’ nests that you have seen?

Investigate aspects of a bird's life cycle, variation between birds, bird migration or other egg-laying animals.

Students may design and make a container/basket (not a bird's nest) that can hold and protect three native animal eggs. Investigate baskets, bags and carriers that are made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples using natural materials. Compare them to similar objects that have been designed using made materials. See Incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning.

Students explore how artists have represented and built birds' nests in artworks including sculptures, drawings and paintings. Artists may include famous Australians such as Brett Whiteley.


In this STEM activity, your students will have explored different materials, their properties and their suitability for the structures for which they are used. Students will gain an understanding of the interdependence of living things by investigating their needs beyond food, water and air. This knowledge and understanding will help students to learn about Biology and sustainability.

Students will have participated in the practical experiences of comparing sizes, volumes and weights. These are experiences that may assist students to later learn about mathematical, physical or technological concepts.