This back-to-school STEM / STEAM Challenge brings the joy back to your classroom with collaborative, hands-on, brain-busting work (disguised as fun)!
Of course, 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!
The basic premise:
Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build the tallest tower possible using symbols of the back-to-school season: apples and school supplies!
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
– Worksheet: Estimate and measure distances in the classroom and around the school in Apples Aloft towers (two versions plus editable versions provided)
– Optional secondary challenge (Apple Abater) with Criteria & Constraints List and Design Analysis handouts
This is one of five challenges available at a great 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.
- Small apple (1)
- Unsharpened pencils (6 – 12)
- Rubber bands (5)
- Pocket folder with prongs (1)
- File folder or pocket folder without prongs may be substituted
- Index cards (5 – 10)
- Tape (12 – 24 in.)
- Paper lunch bags (1 – 2)
- Ruler or measuring tape (for measuring, not a building material)
- Markers or highlighters
- Pipe cleaners
- Notebook paper
- String or yarn
- Glue sticks
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 – 90 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.
What do teachers have to say about this resource? (Comments from the TpT store).
“My students were very engaged in this project. It provided a great team-building activity for the first days of school. Thanks!”
“What a great way to see your students’ personalities! This was way too much fun for all!”
“This was a great product to introduce my class to STEM activities at the beginning of the year. It was simple, fun, and challenging.”
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