STEM activities are a great and easy way to challenge kids to create and learn about science, technology, engineering and/or math. This simple popsicle stick STEM activity is a hands-on building challenge that only requires two materials.
This activity is part 2 of the ten sessions, with just ten materials, STEM program. To follow along with this program visit, 10 Exciting STEM Activities. Gather just ten simple materials and put them in a container to use as needed. You can complete all of the STEM challenges using just these materials.
Planning and preparing activities for kids can take a lot of time, energy and money. I am excited to share hands-on activities like this because they requires virtually no prep, are minimal cost and best of all kids love them!
Whether you are an educator, parent or just someone who spends time with kids, STEM activities are a great learning activity that children enjoy. As a teacher, I try lots of STEM challenges with my students and then share their favorites with you. This popsicle stick STEM activity is one that created a lot of excitement in my classroom this year!
Add another STEM challenge to your learning activities by creating a bridge. This collection of 10 Easy Bridge Building STEM Challenges for kids is a great way to design, build and test a STEM creation.
Popsicle Stick STEM Activity Materials
I often do my STEM activities with large groups of kids, and I need to have a lot of each supply. That’s part of the reason that I love this popsicle stick STEM activity. You only need two materials in order to do the challenge.
- Jumbo Popsicle Sticks (Any color will work).
That’s all you need to complete the catapult. There are a few other things you can add to the challenge including play dough and the printable activity cards, but they are not necessary to build.
There are also several sets of the activity cards available for free. Each of the cards are included in black and white and color. There are two different cards. One of the cards only shows a picture of the materials children will be given. With this card, kids have to figure out a way to use the materials to make a catapult.
The other activity card shows a picture of a completed catapult. This card can be given to younger children or kids new to STEM challenges. Using the pictured example of a catapult children can look at it to recreate their own catapult.
Choose whichever card is best for your group. There is also a page that has four smaller copies of each of the activity cards so you can save on printing and be able to print the activity card for lots of kids (with less paper).
You can also create STEM kits by placing popsicle sticks, tape and an activity card in a sealable bag along with the activity card. Everything needed to create the catapult independently is in the bag.
Popsicle Stick STEM Activity
To prepare your popsicle stick STEM activity all you need to do is gather your materials. I typically put lots of each supply out on the table for kids and they basically do the rest!
Let kids know that their challenge today is to build a catapult using only the popsicle sticks and tape. They need to find a way to set up the sticks so that something can be set on and flung off of it.
Depending on your kids, you can tell them a specific number of popsicle sticks to stack to create the base of the catapult. At least 6 sticks is a good place to start.
However, if you have older kids creating the catapult, you can simply let them start creating using any number of sticks. They can build through trial and error and then change and alter their creation after they complete it and test it out.
Give kids time to either look at the picture of the completed catapult on the activity card and work to recreate it or let kids try different things until they are successful.
Generally having a stack of six or more popsicle sticks and then sticking another stick through the bottom two with another one on an angle taped at one end (as pictured) works best.
Once kids have created a catapult, they will likely be very excited to try it out!
This is one of my favorite parts of a STEM challenge. It is great for kids to be successful and create a catapult, but now it’s time for kids to test their creation and alter their design as needed. There is so much learning that happens throughout this challenge!
Popsicle Stick STEM Activity – Testing
Once children have created a catapult, grab a ball of playdough, a scrunched up piece of paper or even just a small ball of the tape.
Flatten the bottom of the playdough ball (so it doesn’t roll off), or other material, and set it on the catapult.
Children can test their catapult by pulling down the top popsicle stick where the dough is set, and letting go.
Does the ball go flying up in the air or does it go across the room? How far does it go?
Once kids have done a few tests, then they can change their catapult to see if they can improve it.
They can add more popsicle sticks to make it taller and make a wider distance between the angled popsicle sticks. Encourage children to try moving the angled popsicle sticks in or out.
This is a great alteration for kids to test if moving these popsicle sticks makes any difference. Once they change something, encourage kids to test their catapult again and notice any difference the change made.
Popsicle Stick STEM Challenge Game
Once children have completed their catapult, their STEM challenge is complete. However, if your kids are anything like my kids, and my students, they may still be keen to keep playing and experimenting with their catapult.
If this is the case, you can try out the game below using the catapult. It is also a fun use of the catapults if you had a group who created their own to test and compete.
Grab a few bins, buckets or even cups. They can be any size. If you have young kids playing, then the bigger the bin the more successful they will be.
Line up the bins and put numbers either on the bin or in front of each bin. Each bin is worth a different amount. Have a starting point marked for players to place their catapult.
Put a play dough ball on the catapult and children shoot the ball into the air – aiming for the bins. If the ball lands in a bin, they get the points that the bin is worth.
If you only have a few kids completing, they can each do lots of rounds and if there are lots of kids, like in a classroom, then you can give each kids a few shots and then tally their points.
They can make any design changes to their catapult from one round to the next and learning every single time they do.
I hope your kids enjoy this popsicle stick STEM activity as much as my kids did!
Join the 10 Session with 10 Materials Challenge
This STEM activity is part of a 10 Exciting STEM Activities with 10 materials program. If you liked this challenge, check out the collection of activities. A new challenge is added each week during the summer of 2023.
Print the material list for free and have all of the materials you will need for all of the challenges ready to go!
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You can print the material list and the activity cards featured in this post for free from Hands-On Teaching Ideas Free Resource Library.
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