Materials and Fasteners

By Kate Fraser on Aug 19, 2015

One of the basic concepts in technology and engineering is developing an understanding of the materials needed to complete a project. For a student who is visually impaired, the sense of touch and even hearing are helpful in identifying materials. This activity includes a trip to a local hardware store!



This activity may take several hours to complete.  It is best suited for for 5th graders and middle school students with  visual impairments.  The amount of supervision and hand-over or hands-under instruction will vary depending on the students’ experiences using tools, and their handskills.

Before beginning this activity assemble and organize all the materials. Be sure that there are safety goggles for every student.  Some students may want to wear gloves, either non allergenic exam gloves or work gloves.  Assess that the gloves fit properly and are not interfering with the students' sense of touch or hand skills. 

student shopping at hardware store



  • Samples of wood, paper, cloth, plastic, glass, ceramic, and metal
  • Examples of various types of fasteners including nails, screws, nuts and bolts, staples (both standard office staples and the type used in reupholstering furniture),  water soluble glue and tape
  • Tools: including hammers, screw drivers, staplers and staple guns
  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves 




The student will:

  1. Examine, identify and sort a collection of items according to the materials of which they are made.
    • Here are some questions to answer as the items are being examined:
      • What is the texture?
      • Does the material feel smooth to the touch?
      • Does one item feel colder than another?
      •  What kind of sound is produced when the item is gently tapped on the table?
      • Is the material flexible?
  2. After the materials are successfully identified and sorted, examine a variety of fasteners.
    • Answer the following questions:
      • When would you use tape?  What are the differences among the various kinds of tape?
      • What are some materials that could be fastened by staples?
      • What is the difference between a nail and a screw?
      • What advantage would a screw have in holding material together?
      • What would be the best material would best be held together by a nail or a screw?
      • What kinds of materials could be help together by nuts and bolts?
  3. Select a kind of tape to assemble a cardboard box.  Which type of tape worked best?  Is the box strong enough to hold a two pound object?
  4. Use water soluble glue to glue various shapes of paper onto another sheet of paper.  Use the glue to glue popsicle sticks together.
  5. Use a regular stapler to fasten together some papers of various thicknesses.  Which paper required the greatest push on the stapler?
  6. Fasten a piece of fabric onto wood, using the upholstery staple gun.
  7. Nail two wood pieces together, after practicing using the hammer.
  8. Use screws to fasten two pieces of wood together. Try a regular screw and screw driver, then a Phillips head screwdriver.
  9. Fasten together nuts and bolts using the APH Junior construction kit

wood joined with nuts and bolts

  This part of the activity is appropriate for ages 5 and up. (  

With the teacher plan a trip to the hardware store to look at a variety of materials and fasteners. As you look at various materials think about a project to design and build.




For students with little experience with materials and fasteners, using the APH Junior Construction Kit is a great introductory activity to try before trying this activity. 


NGSS Standards:

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
  • Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account. (3-5-ETS1-1)
ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems


  • The more precisely a design task’s criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that are likely to limit possible solutions. (MS-ETS1-1)

materials and fasteners collage