October 17, 2015 by WittyLibrarian
Target Age Range: Grades 1-3
Program Length: 60 minutes
Brief Description: Learn about structures, and try to build the tallest tower out of cups!
Tiny plastic glasses (technically shot glasses)
Large, sturdy plastic cups
Cost: $ 0-50 (Note: The tiny plastic glasses are sold in the party section of the dollar store, in packs of 24)
- Introduction to Topic
- Read the books Building with Shapes by Rebecca Weber and Look at That Buidling! A First Book of Structures by Scot Ritchie.
- Discuss how Skyscrapers are builts. We referenced the books Skyscrapers! : super structures to design & build by Carol A. Johmann and Skyscrapers : investigate feats of engineering by Donna Latham to aid discussion.
- Divide participants into small groups of 4 or 5 children.
- Small structure building with tiny plastic glasses as a group.
- Large structure building with large plastic glasses as a groupo.
- Build structures using marshmallows and coffee stirrers, individually.
Give each group of children a small stack of cups, and instruct them to build the tallest structure they can out of all the cups. We gave each group about 48 cups. When groups are satisfied with their structure, measure it with the measuring tape to see which group has built the tallest. Often, the groups would begin again to try a taller design. This project was inspired by Our First STEM Challenge ~ Tiny Glasses Challenge! on Growingastemclassroom.blogspot.com
- Large structure building with large plastic glasses.
Each group was given a stack of large plastic cups, about 50 each. As with the small glasses, groups were instructed to build the tallest structure possible, and their results were measured to record the height.
What we would do differently:
This program was almost perfection. The children could easily built structures for an hour longer than the program actually was. The children were endlessly creative with their designs. Never underestimate the appeal of free building- it is a never fail project! The only adaption we would suggest is to the marshmallow and coffee stirrer project- children found it a bit difficult to stick the coffee stirrers into the marshmallows and found the structures to be very weak. We suggest switching coffee stirrers for toothpicks; the shorter length of the toothpicks would make for stronger support lines, and the pointed end would be easier to stick into a marshmallow.
Adaptation for older/younger audience:
This program could be adapted for a younger audience of both Preschool and Kindergarten children. They would enjoy playing with the cups and seeing what structures they can build, although they might not be able to build tall structures. We would recommend reading only Building with Shapes by Rebecca Weber for this group.
For a tween audience, this program would work almost as is. The only suggested change would be to not read Building with Shapes by Rebecca Weber and Look at That Buidling! A First Book of Structures by Scot Ritchie, but to read and reference portions of both Skyscrapers! : super structures to design & build by Carol A. Johmann and Skyscrapers : investigate feats of engineering by Donna Latham.
This program could be adapted for a teen audience, especially if limiting factors were introduced, such as how tall they can build a structure in a set amount of time. The addition of different building materials might also provide a unique challenge.