Home learning focus

Learn the basics of structures.

This lesson includes:

  • two video clips demonstrating how to make a structure stronger and the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel

  • two activities to try at home


When making a structure, you may find that some are strong and others are not.

There are simple rules that can be followed to make structures strong.

Ensure that the base is wider than the top.

Offset the way blocks are stacked so that gaps don't run down the whole structure - look at house bricks to get a better idea.

Use triangles where possible - take a look at a bridge or pylon and you may see lots of triangles there to add strength to the structure.

The following video, taken from the 'Explain This…' series, explores the key properties of structures and how they can be changed to make them stronger.

How to make a structure stronger.

Suspension bridges are hung, or suspended, from thick cables that stretch from one side of the bridge to the other.

These cables are supported by tall towers and then are held down tightly, or anchored, on both ends.

Suspension bridges are strong because the force on the bridge is spread out and evenly distributed.

In this video, taken from the 'Absolute Genius' series, Dick and Dom describe the life and scientific works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, which was the highest and longest bridge in the world at its time.

Discovering the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.


Now you can try and put some of what you have learned about making structures stronger into action.

Activity 1

Using materials from around the house, have a go at building your own bridge.

It needs to be strong enough to hold up a toy vehicle, so think about what you have learnt about strong shapes and structures and add this into your design.

You can plan out and evaluate your bridge on the following worksheet from Twinkl.

Build a bridge

Activity 2

Build a self-supporting dome structure.

For this activity you will need straws of different colours, scissors and tape.

You can follow the steps in the worksheet from the Science Museum Group.

Build a dome

Where next?

Continue your learning with these links:

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources around the BBC and the web.

More lessons for Year 4 and P5
Primary Design and Technology
BBC Teach Design and Technology