Lesson 2: Stevie and the Big Project


When students run into a barrier while answering a question or working on a project, it’s so easy for them to get frustrated and give up. This lesson will introduce students to the idea that frustration can be an important part of learning. Here, frustration is presented as a step in the creative process, rather than a sign of failure.

This lesson can be done over one or two class sessions. If you have more time, feel free to draw out the building and revising phase of the Marble Run activity.


The goal of this lesson is to help students realize that failure and frustration are common when working on projects, but that doesn't mean that they should give up.

In this lesson, students will develop an understanding of what it means to be frustrated while working on a large project. It's possible that not every student will experience frustration with this activity, but there are many opportunities to open a discussion about moments in the past where students have felt frustrated but nevertheless persisted.


Warm Up (15 min)

Marble Run (20 - 45 min)

Wrap Up (5 min)

Extended Learning

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Students will be able to:

  • Identify and point out symptoms of frustration.
  • Illustrate at least one reason why they will choose to be persistent in the face of frustration, rather than giving up.


  • Watch the Stevie and the Big Project - Teacher Video.
  • Pre-read "Stevie and the Big Project" to identify appropriate questions for your class.
  • Follow instructions in the Marble Run - Teacher Prep Guide to make a Marble Run.
  • Print copies of the Marble Run Ruler (page 2 of teacher guide) for each student or pair of students.
  • Prepare a resource station with cardstock, safety scissors, tape, and anything else you think might be fun for students to build with. Include a stack of the “Marble Run Hints” pages from the Teacher Prep Guide, but do not advertise their existence.
  • (Optional) Allow students to bring cardboard, popsicle sticks, string, or other tidbits from home to add to the resource station.
  • Make sure each student has a Think Spot Journal - Reflection Journal.


Heads Up! Please make a copy of any documents you plan to share with students.

For the Teachers

For the Students


  • F.A.I.L. - First Attempt In Learning
  • Frustrated - Feeling annoyed or angry because something is not the way you want it.
  • Persistence - Trying again and again, even when something is very hard.


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Teaching Guide

Warm Up (15 min)

Lesson Tip

Sample Questions:

  • How would you feel if you were given a project that feels much harder than what you are used to?
  • Do you think it’s okay to try something new, even if it doesn’t work out the first time?
  • Why do you think Stevie smashed her project?
    • Do you think that helped her or hurt her when it comes to reaching her goal?
    • What do you think Stevie should have done instead of breaking her project?
  • Can somebody explain what frustration is?
  • How do you think you can know when you are frustrated?
    • What face do you make when you are frustrated?
    • How can you make yourself feel better when you start to get frustrated?
    • We all get frustrated sometimes. Does that mean that we should give up?
  • Can someone tell me what persistence is?
    • Why is it hard to learn if you're not persistent?
    • Can you tell me why you might be tempted not to be persistent?
    • What happened when Stevie decided to be persistent?
    • Do you think you can be persistent?

Stevie and the Big Project

This lesson is meant to introduce students to the idea that they should not give up just because they are frustrated.

Read: Begin by reading resource stevie-big-project-pdf not found. Students will be introduced to the ideas of persistence and frustration through the relatable challenges of Stevie the Squirrel and her crew. Chief among these are the concept that struggle leads to learning and that persistence can lead to success.

This book should be read as a classroom story, any other format exists only for students without access to a teacher.

Discuss: When sharing this story with your class, feel free to use the reading techniques that work in your classroom. If your students like to discuss things that happen as they appear in the book, be sure to stop your class after large plot areas like when Stevie breaks her structure, or when Laurel explains frustration.

If your students like to sit through a whole story and discuss at the end, read through the book, then prompt their memory with some “Remember when…” type questions.


Review: The vocabulary in this lesson in among the most important of the year. You may need to do a little extra work with your students at the end of the story to make sure that they understood that frustration is the feeling of being annoyed or angry at something and that persistence is choosing not to give up, and attempting something over and over again.

  • Persistence - Say it with me: Purr-siss-tense. Not giving up. Persistence works best when you try things many different ways, many different times.
  • Frustrated - Say it with me: Frus - straight - ted. Feeling annoyed or angry because something is not the way you want it.
  • F.A.I.L. - First Attempt in learning. When you try to do something, but you don't do it quite right.

Marble Run (20 - 45 min)

This activity is meant to highlight and normalize the feeling of frustration, while giving students a chance to be persistent.

Set-Up: How you conduct this lesson depends heavily on your confidence in your own classroom. If you don't feel that your students are ready to be taping rolled paper into tubes, then you might want to modify the lesson and its materials to be something that students can be more successful with. Some alternatives are:

  • Newspapers taped to the wall/chair/floor
  • Cardboard tubes and paper cups
  • Wooden building blocks with train/car tracks

The options are really endless. Just make sure that the point of the activity remains the same. Students need to struggle with a hard task long enough to be able to identify the feeling of frustration in themselves, then they must be intentionally persistent.

Teaching Tip

Before the Project

It is vitally important that students understand that this activity is meant to help them learn about frustration and persistence. This is not one of those times when we allow students to experience something, then give it a name afterward. Students need to know that they will be feeling some emotions, and that those emotions are okay.

Take a moment to relate the next activity back to the book that you just read. The class might be excited that they get to try the same project that Stevie did, but they might also be apprehensive at the thought of tackling something difficult.

Encourage your students to have their Think Spot Journals around during the activity so they can use them to plan, solve, and voice concerns.

Building the Marble Run


Now, we’re going to do something very fun, and very challenging! I am going to let you all try to make a Marble Run of your own!

This is supposed to be challenging. That’s part of the fun! Your Marble Run probably won’t work right the first time, and that’s
alright. The goal for this game is to practice being persistent.

Remember, Stevie showed us that this might be difficult, and sometimes difficult things are frustrating. It is okay if you get frustrated during this activity. Most of us probably will at some point. How should we handle those feelings?

  • Count to 10
  • Take deep breaths
  • Journal about them
  • Talk to a partner about them
  • Ask for help

Time to be an engineer!

Group: Break students up into pairs and have them quickly come up with a team name. This should help to unify them in their work.

Next, point out the resource station that you have set up with all of the supplies and goodies that students will have access to. Make sure you are very clear about whether they are limited only to the items in the resource station or whether they are allowed to ask for other items for their creation.

Teaching Tip

Checkpoint Suggestions:

  • Pre-planning time (3-5 minutes)
  • First attempt at building (10-15 minutes) -- For a longer (or two day) time period --
  • Discuss with another group (3-5 minutes)
  • Revision of structure (10-15 minutes) -- Wrap Up Work --
  • Collaborative work time (5-15 minutes)

It can be a good idea to give students checkpoints for this activity. Make sure that they know that there is no penalty for not finishing on time.

Preplanning is optional, since prediction is not often a kindergartener’s strong suit.

Teacher Tip

As you know, tears are a very common byproduct when kindergarteners attempt difficult lessons. You will likely want to have a pre-packaged prescription for students who become emotionally raw.

  • Can you put into words what you are feeling right now?
  • Stevie would be so proud of you. What do you think Laurel and Jorge would say if you told them how you feel?
  • What would it be called if you said out loud that you are frustrated, but decided to keep working anyway?
    • Do you feel like you can be persistent with me today?

Circulate: The first attempt at building will likely be hectic and a bit sloppy, but it should give students access to the feelings and opportunities for persistence that are being studied in this lesson.

Try to end the Marble Run build with an opportunity for groups to collaborate. This will improve the chances of success for students who have been struggling, without the need for teacher intervention.

After the Marble Run

Discuss: Time to do some damage control if any is needed.

Remind students that this activity was planned to teach students how to identify feelings of frustration and work past them to be persistent.

Discuss the difference between being successful at building their contraption and being successful for the purpose of this activity. Allow students the opportunity to celebrate their hard work and persevering through frustration.

Wrap Up (5 min)


Goal: Allow students to reflect on the emotions and processes experienced during the lesson.

Journal Prompts:

Finish out this lesson by asking students to spend some time in their Think Spot Journal.

  • Draw one of the Feeling Faces - Emotion Images that shows how you felt about today's lesson in the corner of your journal page.
  • Draw a picture of what you look like when you’re frustrated.
  • Draw a picture that shows things you can do to feel better when you’re frustrated.
  • What does persistence look like?

Extended Learning

  • Add a third piece to the beginning of the Marble Run. Can students start a marble up even higher and get it to flow through the rest of their contraption?
  • Talking through frustration. Can students think of things that they can say to classmates to help them be persistent when they are frustrated?

Standards Alignment

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CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)

AP - Algorithms & Programming
  • 1A-AP-11 - Decompose (break down) the steps needed to solve a problem into a precise sequence of instructions.

Cross-curricular Opportunities

This list represents opportunities in this lesson to support standards in other content areas.

Common Core English Language Arts Standards

RL - Reading Literature
  • K.RL.10 - Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.
  • K.RL.7 - With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).
SL - Speaking & Listening
  • K.SL.1 - Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
  • K.SL.2 - Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.

Common Core Math Standards

G - Geometry
  • K.G.5 - Model shapes in the world by building shapes from components (e.g., sticks and clay balls) and drawing shapes.
MD - Measurement And Data
  • K.MD.1 - Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.
MP - Math Practices
  • MP.1 - Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively
  • MP.4 - Model with mathematics
  • MP.5 - Use appropriate tools strategically
  • MP.6 - Attend to precision
  • MP.7 - Look for and make use of structure
  • MP.8 - Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

Next Generation Science Standards

ETS - Engineering in the Sciences
ETS1 - Engineering Design
  • K-2-ETS1-1 - Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
  • K-2-ETS1-2 - Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
  • K-2-ETS1-3 - Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.