ITEEA The Elementary STEM Journal, Vol. 25, Issue 2
PublisherInternational Technology and Engineering Educators Associaiton, Reston, VA
ReleasedDecember 1, 2020
The Elementary STEM Journal, Volume 25, Issue 2 - December, 2020

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Table of Contents

Books to Briefs - A Lucky Catch: Using Design Thinking to Trap Leprechauns

Books to Briefs

A Lucky Catch: Using Design Thinking to Trap Leprechauns How to catch a leprechaun
Katharine F. Rozman

Book Used: 
Wallace, A. (2016). 
How to catch a leprechaun. 
Sourcebooks Wonderland. 
[32 pages; ISBN-13: 978-1492632917]

Book image courtesy of

Grade Level: Kindergarten

book synopsis

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, and all over town, children are ready. They’ve contrived elaborate traps to catch that pesky leprechaun, who each year runs the night, wreaking havoc everywhere he goes. In cheeky rhyme, the leprechaun boasts he can escape any trap set for him. Playful illustrations depict the trail of mess and mischief left behind each unsuccessful capture. Will you be the one to outsmart the leprechaun and his pals?   

lesson synopsis

Using the book for inspiration, students will engage in an abridged version of the design process to define and empathize with the problem, design solutions, and build their own traps. Mischievous leprechauns happen to frequent our school on St. Patrick’s Day, so we might even get to test and evaluate our designs.

lesson goals

The focus of this activity is to engage students in the design-thinking process in conjunction with imaginative play. Students will examine a problem through the eyes of an engineer as they plan and execute self-created designs intended to solve a specific need.

student learning objectives

Through this lesson, students will:

•      Analyze and relate to a problem.

•      Describe a solution with pictures, words, and numbers.

•      Use creative thinking and making to construct a design that fulfills a purpose.

•      Evaluate the effectiveness of their designs.


Standards for Technological and Engineering Literacy (ITEEA, 2020)

•      STEL-2D: Develop a plan in order to complete a task.

•      STEL-7A: Apply design concepts, principles, and processes through play and exploration.

•      STEL-7F: Differentiate essential skills of the technology and engineering design process.

•      STEL-7G: Apply skills necessary for making in design.

Common Core Math and ELA Standards (CCSSI, 2020)

•      CC.2.4.K.A.4: Classify objects and count the number of objects in each category.

•      CC.1.4.K.J: Make logical connections between drawing and writing.

Leprechaun Traps 2 - 300.jpgdesign brief


Work through the design-thinking process to invent and build a trap that will catch a leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day!

Criteria and Constraints:

•      Only use materials provided.

•      For safety, traps cannot block the door.

•      We don’t want to hurt the leprechaun, just catch him. (Otherwise, he can’t give us gold!)

Leprechaun Traps 6-300.jpgMaterials:

The type and quantity of materials students can use are endless. Suggestions below:

•      Popsicle sticks

•      Construction paper

•      Cereal boxes

•      Paper cups/bowls

•      Coffee filters

•      Pipe cleaners

•      String

•      Glue

•      Tape

•      Scissors

•      Hole punch

•      Items to “attract” leprechaun (gold items, glitter, sugar cubes, rainbows)

•      Pencils

•      Crayons

Support Materials:

Students are encouraged to document each stage of their process in the Lucky Catch Design Thinking Log ( or similar journal.

Leprechaun Traps 8-300.jpgProcedures:

1.     Referencing the calendar, point out St. Patrick’s Day. Play on students’ imagination. Lament that each year, on the night before St. Patrick’s Day, mischievous leprechauns find their way into our classroom and make a mess! Discuss the word mischievous­—the leprechauns play tricks to be silly, but don’t mean harm. Perhaps remind students of other leprechaun books you’ve read. This year, we’re going to stop the mischief. We will use design thinking to try to catch a leprechaun of our own. Once trapped, the leprechaun must give us his pot of gold! Let’s read to find out more.

2.     After reading How to Catch a Leprechaun, reiterate that, as in the book, leprechauns often visit our school and make a mess on St. Patrick’s Day. It is our job to stop them! Leprechauns are tricky…after all, everyone in the book was unsuccessful. A leprechaun broke all their traps. We will use the design-thinking process to create the best possible designs.

3.     Remind students that an engineer designs items that help people. Today, we are engineers because we are designing leprechaun traps. Design thinking is a way to look at problems like an engineer. This will help us to work carefully and invent the best traps. Show students the Lucky Catch Design Thinking Log. We will use this to guide our thinking like an engineer.

4.     Perusing illustrations from the book, ask students how the children felt when the leprechaun came (annoyed, frustrated, angry). What was the problem? (The leprechauns broke the traps and made messes!) Students can detail their thoughts in the Design Log, or you can write a sentence that defines the problem as a class. 

5.     How can we make better traps? Show students materials you preset. Remind them we want to catch a leprechaun, but not harm him. If the leprechaun gets hurt, he won’t give us his gold! Allow students a few minutes to orally brainstorm and discuss ideas.

6.     Model how students will draw and label their designs in the Design Thinking Log. Emphasize how students will make their diagrams more detailed by writing the word next to each item. Students should think about what materials they will use, and how many of each they need. Allow students to work on ideas and document them in the Log. Circulate the room and ask questions about each child’s design.

7.     After each student has shared their idea with you, allow them to count out the necessary amount of each material and build. Walk around assisting children as needed. Provide students with time to “set” their traps, when completed.

8.     Once students have gone home, the teacher can make it appear as though a leprechaun has visited by leaving green footprints, breaking traps, and disheveling the room. You might consider writing a boastful note or leaving special treats from the leprechauns, commending students’ effort.    

9.     The following day, the class will be amused to find signs of leprechaun activity throughout the classroom. Students should check their traps and see if they were successful. Allow time to examine and record what happened. Students should consider what parts of their traps were well designed and what parts need to be improved next year.

A Lucky Catch Design Log - pg.1.jpgreferences

Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). (2020). Read the standards.

International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA). (2020). Standards for technological and engineering literacy: The role of technology and engineering in STEM education.

Wallace, A. (2016). How to catch a leprechaun. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc.


Katharine F. Rozman is a graduate of Elizabethtown College and has taught both kindergarten and special education for the East Pennsboro Area School District in Enola, PA. She is pursuing her M.S. in Technology and Innovation with an emphasis on STEM education at Millersville University. She can be contacted at


Lucky Catch Design Thinking Log: