I hope you have tried a Quick Challenge by now!
I invented these spur-of-the-moment easy-prep challenges because I needed something I could throw together when things do not go as planned. The Pom-Pom Blaster is one of those!
Let me explain. I teach only Science and STEM.
I have 15 classes in three grade levels. Now, that appears to be rather easy to plan, you would think. I mean, jeez, I would just need to plan for one science activity for each grade level and then just repeat it a few times. Easy peasy.
Nope. I promise, rarely do I have every class doing the same thing. We have days off, assemblies, field trips, a kid with two broken arms, and any number of other things that change my schedule. Inevitably, there will be some classes that are off by a week or even two. So, I am in a constant state of getting everyone caught up so we can begin the next activity together! (Have I mentioned I am OCD…about order and stuff?)
Okay, here’s my point. I have a need for some filler activities. When one class in a grade level gets behind and I need to wait a week before beginning something new with all of them at the same time then I need a ‘Filler’ science/STEM activity. Sometimes I need a filler for every grade level at the same time (like right NOW!)
I just need something that has:
- NO background work.
- No lesson.
- NO research.
- Just- here are your supplies.
- Get busy!
Most of my STEM activities take more time than that. I mean we do some pretty cool stuff, but you can’t throw cooking pancakes together without some background and gathering of supplies and a lot of prep…..so… Ta-Da!
QUICK CHALLENGES HAVE BEEN BORN!
Really, I had this amazing brain pop one day. Why not just hand kids a box of stuff and give them some very SIMPLE directions!
Give them most of the class time to design. Share the designs! Move on!
It is brilliant.
Then I started thinking of all the things we could do. We now have about 25 of these Quick Challenges now- in many variations.
So, how does it work?
This is the best part! Especially if you have multiple classes because the prep is so easy. (A lot of prep doesn’t bother me, mind you, but sometimes it is overwhelming to prepare. You know, I did the pancake activity with NINE classes! We loved it!)
Anyway, it is easy to prep. Gather the supplies and get boxes ready. (I used plastic shoe boxes, but any kind of container will work- even a paper sack!) Now, just add stuff to each box- like an assembly line!
Add the criteria card to the supply box and you are good to go!I know, right? Easiest prep ever!
The Pom-Pom Blaster
This one is really just some cups, rubber bands, craft sticks, straws, and a pom-pom! The rules of the task are simple, too. Just build a device that will propel a pom-pom through the air.
Look at this photo closely. The straw on the left goes through the first cup and into the second cup. They used the twisty part of the straw to make an L shape and then tried to put the pom-pom on top of the straw.
When the pom-pom would not stay on the straw they took the bottom of the cup (already cut off) and used it as a platform to put the pom pom on. Now, when you blow in the straw the pom-pom blasts off! Genius!
Look at the model to the left. The students pulled back on the middle rubber bands and it launched the pom-pom. This one needed a lot of improvement because the rubber band kept flying off! Also, students discovered that holding onto the pom-pom wrapped in the rubber band had a huge failure rate. In fact, the rubber bands tangle in the pom and it usually just hangs on the device.
TIP: After watching teams struggle with this I will stop and observe quietly. Then I ask questions like, “Do you think you can modify the way the pom-pom is being held?” This leads them to start thinking about something that the pom can be wrapped in.
This challenge is one that can be assembled quickly and will last only one class period. Perfect for me and those awkward times I need something QUICK!
TIPS: I always have some suggestions and this challenge had some particular needs.
We had to think about safety. Mind you, what I think is safe is often the last thing the kids think about.
Pulling on rubber bands or aiming them is a no-no for me. Kids just shrug about this being a safety concern.
So, of course, I have rules that we use during this challenge!
- Think about safety first. I do not allow students to make slingshots. My experience with models made in that style is that they come apart too easily and parts go flying.
- My rule about the slingshot is simple: Your device must rest on the tabletop or the floor. It cannot be handheld.
- Another rule: Never aim at anyone. Always look before you let go of the pom-pom. (Yes, I know it’s a pom-pom, but sometimes the devices come apart and fly.)
- And another safety rule: Your device must remain together while being fired. (Safety first!)
Friends, this challenge was spectacular! The kids loved it!
Ann Mosley says
I absolutely agree. Some adult and the majority of students usually think that it is easy to be a teacher because, hey, you have only one discipline to teach (while student have many to study). But in reality it’s really hard to keep up with everything. You have to be extremely organized not to mess something at least once in a while. Here I enjoy personal essay writer as it helps me gather all plans and make sure I've got everything prepared for the next lesson. Anyway, thanks for a great post, I really enjoyed reading your ideas.
Carol Davis says
Thanks for visiting my blog! Depending on your age group you can certainly decide the catapults and pom pom blasters are not for you. The projectiles we used in both of these challenges were fuzzy pom poms. These are quite harmless and kids had very strict guidelines about not firing anything else. Another idea is to have parent volunteers work with small groups to help with any safety issue you think you might have!
Linda the Librarian says
Could you share the instructions that you put in the box?
Carol Davis says
You can find more information about this challenge right here: teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Quick-Challenge-Pom-Pom-Blasters-1549690 Thanks for visiting!
Did it last year and about to do it again as the kids worked beautifully using their collaborative skills. You always need simple ideas to support the kids through the steps in the Engineering Design steps. Thanks Carol.
I'm wondering if you have your list of activities anywhere? I have STEM boxes prepared, but find it hard sometimes to find activities to do with them!
Carol Davis says
Hi Ashley, I have a STEM catalog in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that will give you more info. Here's the link: teacherspayteachers.com/Product/STEM-Products-Catalog-2207894