Solving problems in fictional island settings

Learning outcome

To solve a problem systematically.

Key Stubbington focus

Teamwork - problem solving

  • For Key Stage 2
  • Duration 1 hour
Success criteria
  • We shared and decided on a plan
  • We tried our plan out
  • We reviewed and adapted our plan
  • We communicated effectively
Session plan

Introduction 15 minutes

Our shelter building area is along the western boundary, just beyond the adventure playground. Brushwood is left out in piles by the trees for shelter building (see map).

Set the scene

The children have been stranded on a desert island. What would they need to survive? Their shelters must protect them from the ferocious sun, torrential rain and dangerous, hungry animals.


Elicit from children that their first step should be planning (before collecting materials, building etc). Ask children for ideas on how to plan e.g. thinking time, talking with a partner, sharing ideas, taking turns to speak, listening to each other’s ideas. How can they decide fairly which idea to choose? Discuss the need for a plan ‘B’. Each team must share their plan with an adult before beginning their shelter.

Discuss with children the importance of other team skills which they’ll need once building has started e.g. communication - how will each team member know what to collect? How will jobs/roles be organised?

Go through the above safety information with the children. Organise teams with 5-6 children in each. Materials may be in piles where shelters that have been built earlier in the week have been demolished. Stress to children that these piles do not belong to particular groups and that they must use these to create their own pile of materials.

Building 35 minutes

Step back and watch the children begin to develop construction ideas! After the first ten minutes, it may be necessary to intervene. Don’t tell the children what to do, but help them to discuss the problems, refer them to their plan B, and suggest building alternatives.

Shelter Testing 10 minutes

Visit each shelter in turn. Children may go inside once it has been checked by an adult.

Discuss if the shelter has met the following criteria:

  • The strength of the shelter - does it have good supports?
  • Spaciousness – its ability to house the whole group
  • Camouflage and general ability to keep predators out
  • Does it give shade?
  • Aesthetics – is it higgledy-piggledy with branches sticking out at odd angles, or is it well finished?
  • Choice of site – is it constructed over a puddle or immediately next to another site?
  • Will it keep the group dry from the rain? At this point, use the bucket of water provided to test this.

Children must leave the shelter slowly when asked.


This could take the form of a discussion, or points could be awarded for incorporating different qualities in the shelter construction and teamwork. A de-briefing should include the following:

  • Group teamwork and co-operation
  • Evaluate ‘plan, do, review’

Less able children

  • Give LA more practical hints for building
  • Assist those with any physical disabilities

More able children

Limit hints but ensure safety is maintained.

Previous activities

  • Teamwork/working collaboratively
  • DT – plan, do, review

Follow up activities

  • Earthquake
  • Eggstreme Challenge
  • Applying skills in other situations, particularly teamwork and problem solving
Health and safety checks
  • Ensure children are aware of safety issues
  • No running
  • Carry large branches with a second person
  • Safely roll large logs
  • Drag branches along the ground
  • Be aware of other people
  • Do not throw branches
  • Children must not go inside the shelter until it’s safety has been checked by an adult