Environmental Learning Lessons To Grow! Natural Play STEM

Gone Fishin’ Engineering Design Challenge

Play while problem-solving…

Catching a fish is something everyone should experience as a kid!


To go fishing, you don’t need a fancy boat or guide, just a lake or river spot, a little gear, bait and some luck.  Kids enjoy the playfulness of trying different materials and designs just as much as dipping the bait into the water in anticipation of catching a fish.  As with most engineering design challenges, the emphasis should be put on the process rather than the product. Just like with fishing, the actual fish (if you catch one) isn’t the only fun to be had.  We can sit back, relax, and empower youth as their ingenuity unfolds within the engineering design process.

Emphasizing the process looks like many cycles of “design-build-test-improve.”   Providing different shapes and sizes of sticks, scrap wood, and plastic bottles sparks creativity. For example, a bottle with a long slender top can work to cast the line, meanwhile bobbers can fit into a wide-mouthed energy drink bottle acting as a storage system for tackle. Many parks have fishing piers, but casting from shore might work better for you. Digging for bait gives a new appreciation for healthy soil, but canned corn or wax worms work well for catching panfish too.  Good luck creating, building, and fishing!


Problem to Solve:

Can you create an inexpensive, easy-to-store device for catching panfish?


Share a story about fishing’!

Criteria & Constraints

Your fishing device must be reusable.

Your fishing device must fit or collapse to fit into a basic backpack.

Your fishing device must cost less than $3.00 to construct.

Share tools, conserve materials, follow safety instructions and fishing guidelines.

Design with a sketch first then build.

Improve your design at least 5 times.


Sticks or scrap wood of different types and thicknesses

Plastic bottles of different shapes and sizes

Fishing line

Bobbers of different sizes

Hooks (or paper clips for safety)

Sinkers of different sizes (lead free preferred)

Bait  (Dig up some worms from the geosphere!)

Rubber bands, large and small

Additional recyclables


Scissors, hot glue gun, rulers, paper, knot-tying expert or diagram, needle nose pliers, fishing license, backpack to test size constraint



Play. Learn. Love.

June 2017

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