I have been working on Engineering, STEM and team building activities with the all the K-5 kids. Almost everything we have done has made the children work together. Children have to learn to work together in a lab setting! I did this activity with the second graders but it could work equally well with almost any grade.
To do this STEM activity you will need a light weight stuffed animal. We are the Gators so this was my choice. It is actually a dog toy but I loved the gator design so I grabbed it. I named her Allie rather than Alford because we need more girls in science!
light weight stuffed animal
4 pieces of copy paper
1 Glue Stick
4 kids but you can have less in a group or just one kid
The children are presented with a problem. I told the children we needed to take care of Allie since she was the science lab mascot. I wanted to be sure she had a place to sit! She could not sit on the table and her seat had to lift her off the table. This was my only requirement the seat had to lift her off the table. For older groups I had specified heights when doing variations of the activity.
Each group was given the paper and the glue stick. No other materials. I told them they had 10-15 minutes to work. There was some initial argument among some groups and others got right to work. It is really interesting to watch the interactions in the groups. If I felt a group was not going to be able to get a structure built I intervened to help the group get back on track. One great thing about Engineering STEM activities is that often children get to shine that may not have that opportunity during some activities. These children often gain a new respect from their classmates. After each group built a structure we decided together how many seconds the structure should hold Allie. This group decided that each structure should holed Allie for 10 seconds.
The children built many kinds of structures. I was amazed at the variety. We talked about stability and that many of the structures helped to spread out weight. We did have a couple of structures that did not work. I gave these groups a chance to tweak their design and if the paper was not usable I gave them new paper. Engineers continually redesign as they test out new designs. The children understood that they needed to solve the one problem that I gave them and that redesigning helped them solve the problem.
Some of the children were concerned that others “copied” their designs or that the designs were similar. I reminded them that everyone had to solve the problem and that many buildings were similar but may be different in ways we cannot see. There were so many designs that worked and that is the beauty of STEM and Engineering. We used technology when we timed the amount of time the Allie was able to stay on the structure. We also talked about the technology of the glue stick and how it changes the way we are able to use glue. Engineers continue to perfect ways to use glue! Thanks goodness.