I love teaching science and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons. Today I tried this STEM activity with my kindergarten classes (3-6 year olds). The materials are really simple, and the kids loved building with them.
I put students into groups of 4 and each group was given a bin. In the bin, there were paper plates, paper rolls and a mouse character. Students were asked to create a structure that the mouse could be set on top of without the structure falling. They were also challenged to get the mouse as high off the ground as possible! The mouse is not necessary to use for this challenge; however, I find that using a character or story creates purpose for students and it gives a focus.
I find that separating each groups materials into clear bins works best with young students. It keeps the materials contained, it is easy to pass out and clean-up is fast and done independently! After the bins are passed out, I let students start building.
I did not give an example of how to build or instructions of what they should try; however, I did remind them that great scientists and engineers don’t give up! I told them that their structure will fall down. That’s okay! I remind them to learn from what worked and what caused it to fall down and use that information to build again. Beyond this, I left it open for students to experiment and learn through trial and error. Which if feel is essential for STEM challenges.
I was so proud of how well they all did with this STEM activity! Students talked about balancing and keeping their structure even. Many groups started by using only one roll between the plates, but added more to help stabilize it. When they felt they had created a great structure for their mouse, I then measured the height of their structure, just for fun. It was a great learning experience and interesting to watch the fact that groups that worked together were consistently the most successful.
When I tried this out at home I did not have extra paper plates to give my kids to build with. However, we cup up recycled boxes to make squares and rectangles. They actually ending up working great! It allowed my kids to build different, more challenging structures. Use whatever you have available! There are lots of options.