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Shake, Rattle, and Roll! The Earthquake Challenge!

Shake, Rattle, and Roll! Are you ready for this? It’s the earthquake challenge and jiggly jello…… and, boy do I have a story to tell you!

STEM Challenge- Build a structure that can withstand a mild shaking! It's the Earthquake STEM Challenge!

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Here’s My Story… and I’m Sticking to it!

This is a challenge I wanted to try for a long time. I thought a jello base as the shake table was a great idea!

So, first I needed some pans of jello. That seemed easy. I bought pans at the dollar store and real jello because I thought generic jello might not mix right and then I’d have 8 pans of runny, gummy gunk.  

I decided to go on a Sunday afternoon and make all these pans in my classroom. I mean, seriously, how could I have made all this at home and then transported it to school? A better questions is why I needed eight pans of jello.   

Well, I usually have 7 groups and I figured every group needed a pan. And I better make an extra because somebody always spills something. Anyway, I made 8 pans. But they needed to be refrigerated. Oops, I hadn’t thought that far ahead. It turned out that the mini-fridge that goes with our portable, rolling kitchen cart was available and I just rolled it right into my lab. And, miracle of all miracles, I was able to use plastic trays and stack all those jello pans. And, a bonus was that my lab smelled like fruity, tooty for three days. Just sayin’…

STEM Challenge- Build a structure that can withstand a mild shaking! The structure must have a specified number of levels!

Now, it’s finally time for the kids’ part in this jiggly mess.

Mind you, I had planned to do this with third graders and I did try a class with the little engineers. Then I swiftly made the decision to move on up to 4th grade. The toothpicks and marshmallows presented quite a challenge in building a sturdy house!

And there might have been some playing in the jello…

STEM Challenge- Build a structure that can withstand a mild shaking! The jello pan is one way to build a shake table!

Time for the shaking!

After building their houses they placed them in the shake pans and shook them vigorously, but not violently. Say that three times fast!

We stood around and counted off ten seconds of shaking and then stopped to see if the structures survived!

Did all of the structures work?

Nope, some of them collapsed.  This earthquake challenge was really fun (after I worked out all of the kinks!)

Some tips for you:   

  • Have paper towels on hand and wet wipes cause kids are going to touch the stuff just because they want to make sure it’s real jello.
  • At least twelve of them will ask if we are going to eat the jello.
  • At least one group is going to make some wonky something that won’t stand up on its own, much less stand up in jello.
  • They will LEARN something from this- as silly as it seems to be.

We spent time talking about building codes and creating structures that will move with an earthquake, but not collapse.

UPDATE: I have tried this earthquake challenge every year and recently added a new and improved shake table! The resource now contains directions for several different structures and the two shake tables!

STEM Challenge- Build a structure that can withstand a mild shaking! Without a good base the structure will topple over!


  1. Unknown says

    Love your comments and the helpful tips at the end! Thank you! I'll be trying this with my class as well!

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