We see bridges and drive, and walk, over them all the time. However, we typically don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how they are built or how they can hold so much weight. However, there is a lot of planning, engineering and science that goes into building a bridge. Encourage kids to look at the bridges around them in a whole new way, by building their own with these 10 Easy Bridge Building STEM Challenges for Kids.
My favorite part of doing STEM challenges with my kids, and students, is watching as they build and create. I have done countless STEM challenges in the classroom over the years, and without exception, the children have always come up with ideas and solutions that I would never have thought of. Their creativity always amazes me.
Children create without preconceived ideas of what a bridge or other structure should look like. With STEM challenges, they problem solve as they experiment and learn that if something doesn’t work, it’s not a failure, but rather a learning opportunity.
As STEM challenges are becoming more and more common and encouraged in schools, it makes me very happy and excited to for our future when I see what children create.
I’m sure many of you have had a bridge building project come home from school or perhaps you remember building a bridge when you were in school. It’s a common STEM challenge because it is meaningful and there is so much learning that comes from it.
If you are looking for a hands-on STEM challenge for home, or preparing a building unit at school, these 10 STEM bridge building challenges are a great place to find ideas!
STEM challenges are activities that incorporate Science Technology Engineering and Math. Ideally the activities include all of these subjects, however, any activity that focuses on at least one of these skills is a STEM activity. Recently Art has been added to some of these activities, making them STEAM activities.
Kids of all ages benefit from STEM challenges. Young children tend to play more and experiment with their toys as they build and play. Older children often start to lose this as they get older. STEM challenges are a great way to keep this engineering and hands-on experimenting alive.
For all STEM challenges remind children that simply trying and not giving up is a huge part of the activity. Even scientists and engineers experiment and are not always successful as they plan their projects. What makes them successful is that they don’t give up. They learn from what went wrong and take what they learned and implement it into their next plan.
Preparing a STEM Challenge
To start a STEM challenge, let children know specifically what their challenge is. For many of the STEM challenges below, it is as simple as “Build a bridge that can hold some weight” or “Build a bridge to span over a certain area”. Keep it simple, and let kids come up with their own solutions.
Many STEM challenges use simple materials to build with. This is great for hands-on projects since children are already familiar working and playing with the materials.
When doing the challenge, allow kids to come up with any solution they feel works. I am always amazed at all the different ideas and creations that children come up with.
So grab a few materials and start building!
The list below includes some ideas that include several pictures and a full description. Other ideas include a link to click for a full and complete description.
#1 Popsicle Stick Bridge
This bridge building challenge is also a great introduction to STEM challenges. Children are simply given popsicle sticks and elastics. The challenge is to build a bridge that can hold weight.
To test these bridges, the popsicle stick bridge is set across two chairs, or tables, and then weight is applied. You can add to this challenge by making different requirements. Some ideas include:
- Specifying the length of the bridge
- Limiting the number of popsicle sticks and/or elastics
- Making a height requirement
Depending on the age of the children, the bridges will likely look different. Some children may show their understanding of the shapes used to make bridges, or the strongest shapes, such as triangles. They may incorporate this information into their building. It is a great opportunity to use and test this knowledge.
#2 Building Blocks STEM Bridge
Another really simple STEM challenge is this building blocks bridge. Simply give children plastic building blocks and a sheet of blue paper.
This is a great challenge because, similar to the first challenge idea above, it uses simple materials that children are already familiar with. Children likely already know how to build with and connect the pieces.
It is also a great challenge because if your children are anything like mine, they already love building with the blocks. This interest will keep kids engaged and excited about the STEM challenge.
Have children set the sheet of paper down flat and ask them to pretend that it is water or a stream. Next, challenge them to create a bridge that can go from one side to the other without touching the water, or falling in the water, and they can only use the building blocks.
This was great when I did it with children in kindergarten. No two bridges were the same!
#3 Bridge STEM Challenges
Hang onto the building blocks from the last challenge for this STEM activity. Challenge the kids to build a bridge that can hold a can of food – or several cans! There are different ideas for the materials that children can use to build with.
It’s a simple idea, but a great way to keep kids busy and problem solving as they play. Click here to view the full Hold a Can Bridge Building Activity.
#4 STEM Challenges with Acorns
How neat is this bridge building idea? All you need are acorns and play dough.
Can kids build an acorn bridge that supports a LEGO car? Of course, they can! Click here for an acorn STEM challenge.
#5 Simple STEM Challenge
Grab some paper and pennies/coins for this STEM challenge.
Quick and easy to set up paper bridge building STEM challenge to see who can build the strongest bridge! Click for the simple paper and pennies bridge.
#6 Popsicle Stick Engineering
Recapture the magic of engineering with this super-fun popsicle stick bridge engineering challenge. Click for engineering challenge.
#7 Straw Bridge Building STEM Challenges
In this straw bridge STEM activity, your students and children will be handed a bundle of straws, a pair of scissors, and a roll of clear tape.
Their objective… to design and construct a bridge that can span a distance of one foot and bear a reasonable amount of weight without collapsing.
Try this STEM challenge today.
#8 Castle Drawbridge STEM Activity
Learn how to build a working drawbridge with this engineering + art STEAM activity that can be used for a castle or to operate a moveable bridge.
This castle STEAM challenge pairs art and engineering to challenge kids to make a working drawbridge. For full activity details click here.
#9 Play Dough Bridge Building Challenge
My kids always love playing with play dough. I wanted to incorporate their interest in this building material by using the play dough and popsicle sticks for a STEM challenge. It is an easy STEM challenge to give children because it uses familiar building materials that you probably already have on hand.
I used this activity in the fall and children were challenged to build a bridge over a ‘stream of water’ (a sheet of blue construction paper), to get a few mini pumpkins from one side, back to the pumpkin patch. My students came up with countless solutions to this STEM challenge!
For the play dough, tongue depressor STEM challenge, click here.
#10 Rainbow Bridge STEM Challenge
This idea is great when you are catching leprechauns, but it is such a great activity to try any time of year.
Learn how to build a rainbow bridge using a variety of supplies such as paper, craft sticks and more. Determine which designs make the strongest bridge in this STEM Challenge. Rainbow bridge activity.
#Bonus! Real Bridges Around Us
Before, or after, learning about bridges, show children all about the real thing with these photos and information about one of the most famous and beautiful bridges in the world.
Learn all about the Golden Gate Bridge.
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100+ STEM Challenges Activity Cards
If you are looking for more activity ideas to use with virtually any collection of materials, from wooden blocks and paper rolls to straws and string, there are endless ideas to help you bring STEM to your classroom or home.
Over 100 printable STEM Building Challenges!
More Hands-On Teaching Ideas
If you like the 10 bridge building STEM challenges above, you’ll also love the activities below. From a collection of over 45 STEM challenges and more simple challenge ideas, you’ll find lots to keep kids busy and learning!
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