Activity 1: Brunel’s Great Railway!
Activity 2: Brunel in Bristol
Activity 3: Bridging the Avon Gorge
Activity 4: Life on Board the SS Great Britain
Activity 5: Build a cardboard boat
Activity 6: Reading a book / E-book and Make Semaphore Flags
Activity 7: The Egg Drop Challenge
Activity 8: What have I learnt?


Watch this video about Isambard Kingdom Brunel – a famous engineer who built the Great Western Railway between Bristol and London.

Try to take notes as you’re watching so that you can remember even more than normal.

Imagine you are one of those passengers waiting at the platform ready to board the first ever train to London.

  • How do you feel?
  • Who are you with?
  • How much does the ticket cost?
  • Who else is in your carriage?

Act out the scene and really imagine what it must have been like!

Write a story from the point of view of one of the first passengers on the Great Western Railway. *Extra activity if you have Netflix* If you have Netflix, you could also watch Horrible Histories Series 5, episode 12 to catch a glimpse of Brunel in action.


Discover Brunel’s impact on Bristol by reading this poster created by the SS Great Britain.org.

After reading the fact-sheet, ask these questions:

  • Which of the places that Brunel designed have you been to?
  • What was it like? What did you think when you saw it? How did it make you feel?
  • Is there anywhere on the fact-sheet that you would like to visit? Why?



Designing a bridge
First, practise your engineering skills by going to this SS Great Britain website and designing your own bridge over the Avon Gorge in Bristol.

*If you don’t have a printer, just draw the cliffs on either side.*

Building a bridge out of spaghetti
After you’ve designed your Bridge, watch this video tutorial from the James Dyson Foundation and see if you can meet the challenge of building a bridge out of spaghetti that is strong enough to hold a bag of sugar.
To download the challenge card, go to this page and download the challenge card pdf document, then go to p.52 for a step-by-step guide.

As you’re building the bridge, talk about the process:
– How many sticks of spaghetti do you think it will take to build our bridge?
– What do you think will happen if we ____________?
– Do any parts of the bridge seem flimsy?
– Does this part have enough tension?
– Will it be able to take the weight of the sugar?
– Does this piece need to be longer / shorter?


Have you been to the SS Great Britain?
Watch this short video to hear what it was like for children and families on board.

After watching, cut a piece of A4 card or paper into two to make a postcard. Put a picture on one side, and write someone’s address on one side of the back.

Imagine that it’s the year 1890 and you are travelling aboard the SS Great Britain. Write your postcard explaining what life is like for you:

  • What can you see from your cabin?
  • How have you been spending your days?
  • What games have you been playing?
ship e
postcard e



Watch this video tutorial from the James Dyson Foundation and see if you can meet the challenge of building a cardboard boat.

To download the challenge card, go to this page and download the challenge card pdf document, then go to p.60 for a step-by-step guide.

As you’re making the boat, talk about the process:

  • Is it watertight?
  • How heavy is it?
  • Will it be buoyant?

Watch this BBC Bitesize video to learn about buoyancy.


Watch this BBC Bitesize video to learn about buoyancy.

Read a book

Read a story from home, or find an e-book on Oxford Owl:

Once you’ve chosen a book, read the story.
Ask and answer questions as you read. For example, “how does this character feel?”, “what do you think is going to happen next?”, “which words describe this place/character”, etc.


Go to this SS Great Britain page to read about how sailors used to use flags to communicate with each other.

Make some simple semaphore flags out of paper, using pencils for the sticks.

Use the code breaker worksheet to practise spelling out different words from the story that you’ve just read. Once you feel confident, stand apart from each other and spell out different words. See if you can work out what the other person it trying to tell you!



Here is a traditional Chinese shadow puppet performance for you to watch, called Cat and Mouse

After, watch this old shadow puppet animation of Puss in Boots, by Lotte Reiniger

egg drop e

What would happen if you threw a raw egg off the roof of your house?

Your challenge is to drop a raw egg from a height – preferably from a first or second floor window!
You need to build something that will protect your egg, using anything that you have in the house. A good place to look would be in the recycling – plastic bags, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, old cans, toilet paper, etc.

When you’re designing your egg protector, think about the following things:

What could cushion the blow so that your egg doesn’t crack?
How could you slow your egg down so that it doesn’t fall so fast?
Which way up should your egg go so that the strongest part hits the ground first?
Good luck!!


Draw 3 shapes (stars, circles, blobs) on a piece of paper. Write the following headings in each one for your child:

– Things I know about Isambard Kingdom Brunel
– Things I know about engineering
– My favourite ‘engineering’ activity and why
– What do I want to learn next?

Help your child to write some thing in each one, or let them fill them in.

shadow write up