Simple Paper STEM Activity


Attention future engineers and builders! Are you ready for a super fun STEM adventure? Today, your challenge is to create an incredible structure using just three simple things: paper, tape, and scissors. Your mission? To build a structure that’s not just cool-looking but also strong enough to hold a weight! This simple paper STEM activity is a great challenge for kids of all ages.

There’s no prep required for this STEM activity and the materials are super simple, and inexpensive. It’s the perfect activity when you have a bit of time to fill and need a hands-on, screen-free, no prep activity!

STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, is like a treasure hunt where you get to explore the coolest mysteries of science, play with amazing gadgets, build cool stuff, and solve mind-boggling puzzles!

This Paper STEM Activity is a fun and simple challenge that kids of all ages will be able to try different strategies and problem solve to find a solution.

For more ideas and STEM activities, visit 45+ STEM Challenge Ideas for Kids or a collection of 10 Easy Bridge Building STEM Challenges.

paper stem activity shows a collage for a pinterest pin.

Simple Paper STEM Activity Materials

I often use STEM activities in my classroom. The kids always love trying them and they continue to learn so many skills from these challenges. One of my favorite things about this challenge in particular is that I already had the materials on hand. All you need is:

  • Paper (Construction paper, cardstocks, printer paper, any will work)
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Wooden Blocks
stem challenge shows a fan of colorful construction paper, tape, scissors and wooden blocks.

The wooden blocks are used a weight to test the strength of the structure. I used blocks because this challenge is part of an exciting collection of 10 STEM Activities with just 10 Materials.

You can, however, use any weight you have available. Some of the structures ended up being so strong that we used other materials from around the room like books, and even bins that we then filled with random items to make it heavy. Use what you have.

STEM task card says build a paper tower STEM says build a structure out of paper that can hold a weight.

There is also a Paper STEM Activity task card. You can print the card to include with the materials to create a classroom center or put the card, along with the materials, into a bag to create a kit. The task card is available in the Free Resource Library. (More information below.)

Paper STEM Activity Strategies

Once you have gathered the materials for the STEM challenge, you are ready to begin! There is no further prep required.

The more of each material you can provide, the more detailed and creative the designs tend to be.

Tell children that their task today is to create a structure out of paper that can hold a weight. Each child will likely interpret this differently. That’s part of the fun of STEM challenges. There is more than one possible solution and children are encouraged to create using their imagination.

STEM challenge shows children creating a cutting paper on a floor.

The structure needs to be raised off the table/surface, but otherwise the structure can look like anything and can be built in any way using the materials.

Some of my older students immediately began to build triangles to integrate into their structure. They had learned that these are the strongest shape, so they used this knowledge for this challenge.

STEM challenge shows an accordion folded paper and a stack of construction paper and wooden blocks.

Other children used what they learned from a previous easy STEM challenge that only used paper and created tubes to make their structure strong and stable.

Whatever strategy they may use, it’s a great chance to work on their engineering and problem solving skills.

STEM challenge shows a child building six paper rolls stuck to a page.

Simple STEM Challenge Structures

The designs we ended up with were all really unique and creative. Some children created rolls and tubes to create a structure. These looked great and later held a large amount of weight.

STEM project shows five colorful rolls stuck to paper with one sheet on top creating a tower.

Other structures were a creative idea, but did not hold up as well. The structure below used an accordion type technique.

simple STEM shows a accordion folded paper with two flat sheets on top and bottom.

It was interesting to watch the child add lots of layers to this structure to make it stronger.

Encourage children to add a little bit of weight to their structure as they build. If it is strong and stable then they can begin to add more weight and test their structure. Adding a little bit of weight allows children to decide what is working well and make improvements as they go.

engineering project for kids shows the layers inside of a structure made from construction paper.

Simple Paper STEM Activity Testing

We ended up with several different designs. All of them ended up working and holding a weight. The wooden blocks are a great weight to start with for kids because the blocks are quite light so children feel successful. Most structures will hold at least a few of the blocks.

paper STEM project shows a structure made from paper triangles and a stack of wooden blocks on top.

Once you add a few of the blocks on top, keep adding until the structure begins to break or you can keep it simple if the structure held a block then their design was a success.

paper STEM challenge shows a bunch of rolls of paper and wooden blocks on top.

The more blocks, the stronger and better the structure. Some children created a long structure so it allowed the blocks and weight to be spread out.

paper stem activity shows a paper structure with weight on top.

A few of the designs were so successful that we used all of our wooden blocks and the structure was still standing strong.

building challenge for kids shows a paper structure with wooden blocks on top.

You don’t have to use the blocks, but they are a good material to start testing with. You can start adding other materials and weight once you know the structure is strong.

paper stem challenge shows a paper tower and a child putting wooden blocks as weight on top.

We grabbed some books, bins and other heavy items from around the room. Testing each structure ended up being my kids favorite part!

building challenge shows a paper structure with a paint can on top.

STEM challenges are an easy, screen-free learning experience for kids. The same challenges can be used for young, or older children. The end result will show the knowledge and experience of the older children, but all of the structures are the result of a great hands-on learning activity.

If you like this simple paper STEM activity, continue the fun of STEM challenges with this printable collection of 50 STEM challenges using 15 materials. No prep, simple materials and everything you need from planning worksheets to a marking rubric, STEM has never been easier to bring into your classroom or home.

Perfect for teachers, parents or educators or screen-free fun at home!

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