I am fascinated by, and learn so much by watching children problem solve. I am always very proud of my groups of kids when they are working on a STEM challenge and it doesn’t work, and I hear the words “That’s okay, we can do it again better”. We talk about them thinking like an engineer, and never giving up and learning from their mistakes. I really feel like most of my students now approach these challenges with this attitude; which in many ways is more important than the actual challenge. Today our STEM challenge involved building a tower as tall as possible to ‘reach to the sky’. Students were given the materials that they were allowed to use and they were encouraged to use all of the materials.
For this STEM challenge they were paired up and given a stack of approximately 15-20 cups, roughly 20 large popsicle sticks and a little plastic boy to build the tower for.
Children needed to build a tower as tall as possible and then set their character on top. As long as he does not fall off, we call it a success. The tallest tower that was created was 9 cups high. In all 4 classes that I did this STEM challenge in, the first 15 minutes for almost every group was spent just stacking the cups. Then groups began using the popsicle sticks to help stabilize the levels. It was interesting to watch group after group come to this solution.
Kids worked for the whole period happily building and rebuilding their towers. Every groups tower fell at some point and then they built it again. I love seeing the progress and strategies students use the more they are exposed to STEM challenges. The activities create great problem solvers and children that persist when presented with a challenge. It is very rewarding to watch – both a parent and teacher.