This back-to-school STEM / STEAM Challenge brings the joy back to your classroom with collaborative, hands-on, brain-busting work (disguised as fun)!
The basic premise:
In groups, students will design and build a wearable device to balance an apple on their heads, which they will use to participate in an Apples A-head relay race.
– Students will design their headwear in groups, but each will make his/her own (to minimize any lice concerns). They can decide as a team, and based on available materials, if each member will create unique designs or replicate the team design.
This challenge is also great for any time of year, but especially in the fall when learning about apples, Johnny Appleseed, or Sir Isaac Newton!
If you have questions about which version is right for you, please feel free to leave me a question using the product Q&A below.
NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8
– Links to STEM Challenge How-To videos
– Materials and timing
– Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
– Measuring results
– Post-design extension activities list
– Link to a video walk-through of the challenge
– Criteria & Constraints List (color and black & white; editable version provided)
– Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) (color and black & white)
– Discussion Questions (in color and B&W)
– Process Flow Map
– Create Math Problems Based on Designs
– Apple writing templates
– Gravity research log
This is one of five challenges available at a 40% discount in the Back-to-School STEM Challenge Bundle
This resource is also available in the STEM CHALLENGE YEAR-ROUND MEGA-BUNDLE at an even greater discount!
Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:
Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified. Amazon Affiliate links are included below. See disclosure.
- Apple (1)
- Unsharpened pencils (12 – 16)
- Rubber bands (10 – 20)
- Pocket folder with prongs (1)
- File folder or pocket folder without prongs may be substituted
- Pipe cleaners (10 – 20)
- Paper lunch bags (2 – 3)
- Tape (24 – 36 in.)
- String or yarn (24 – 36 in.)
- Stopwatch or second timer
- Design analysis handouts (included in resource)
- Craft sticks
- Cardboard scraps
Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:
– Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
– Helps students develop growth mindset traits like persistence and resilience
– High levels of student engagement
– The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)
– Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.
Each design iteration should be planned for ~60 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. If you add extension activities, you will need to adjust timing accordingly.
“This was the most fun to watch and kids had to really think. We will be doing this every year!”
“Best STEM activity of the year so far….thanks!”
“Great way to extend Johnny Appleseed activities and get students thinking and working together.”
“Great resource! Easily adapted for my grade 2 students as a beginning of the year getting to know you activity.”
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