Did you notice the title of this post- Free STEM Challenges? That’s right! I have five amazing challenges that kids love so much and, yes, the resources are free.
As always I will tell you a little bit about each free challenge and give you some tips that will help you make them work for you!
Are you ready for free challenges?
Two materials- any type of cup and craft sticks. We use a paper cup and the wide sticks.
Students are trying to build the tallest possible structure. Why is this a challenge?
The constraints require many things! The resource includes a page of mini-constraint cards that tell students the rules to build the tower.
Example- The cups cannot touch one another. Or, each row of the structure must look different. You choose which constraints to use and you can also make up new ones!
TIP: A heavier weight cup is better for this challenge. Foam cups are not ideal, but they will work. Also, paper cups are expensive so check with a local vendor to get some donated to your class!
This is one of my favorites at the beginning of the year. Students are building a model of one of your classroom rules.
During their presentation the teams teach the rule to the other students.
The photo is showing the rule about cleaning up at the end of class! Look closely, the garbage can is made of pieces of straws!
TIP: Use your scrap box for this challenge. My students always need construction paper for items like mats, the garbage in cans, and decorating. I have a huge scrap box for pieces of things we have used and they can grab what they need.
This one is called a mystery because the teams do not what they are building. I describe the materials that will be available and then give out task cards.
Each team builds something different- whatever their task card says! The real beauty of this challenge is in having the students plan their design and then “shop” for the materials they think will be needed for what they are building. They have a budget for spending.
TIP: Use budgeting whenever you need to make a challenge very engaging (although most challenges are anyway). Students love shopping for the materials and it makes them conscious of not wasting. They also love using play money for this!
This is a challenge I tried one year with fifth graders and it was the most fun. We used shoe boxes for the Foosball “table” and ping pong balls or small rubber balls.
Students had to design their craft stick kickers and attach them to dowel stick rods.
And then we had tournaments. Oh. My. Such competition with these little box Foosball sets.
TIP: Be prepared for decorating. My students wanted scoreboards and goals to kick into. They also made “crowds” of people using construction paper to make the stadium. Another tip– we used hot glue guns to attach our players, but I also tried this with classes that used tape. Tape works fine!
I love this one so much! Of course, it is a holiday challenge.
It works just like the mystery build. Students are assigned a structure to build from a task card. The resource includes 6 different items to build.
Here’s the trick- a candy cane must be part of the final structure and it must have a function.
The photo is showing a golf green and the candy cane is the golf club!
TIP: Have extra candy canes. Teams were given one and there were some that broke as they were being added to structures. Another tip: Have extra candy canes- to eat!
Here are some blog posts you might enjoy:
Click on any of the images to see these resources in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and don’t forget they are free challenges!