I am always impressed with how well young children can solve STEM projects and challenges. I always try to give as little (or no) direction beyond the objective. Today I challenged students to create something that a marble could roll down and into a bowl without falling off. The only materials that I gave them was sticks, marbles and large clothes pins.
We have a beautiful bridge in our outdoor space that students used as their ramp for their creations. Through trial and error students quickly noticed that the marble constantly fell off the side of the stick when rolled down. Students tried different strategies, including lowering the wooden boards so that the marble did not roll as fast.
Ultimately, students discovered that they could use the smaller sticks and attach them to the sides of the boards to act as a bumper at the sides.
It is such a simple engineering challenge, but it requires so much thinking and testing! A lot of students flocked to this centre and had a blast building and trying different strategies!