A zip line you say? A Christmas zip line? Yep, that is right a Christmas Zip Line with a Sleigh full of toys! What an exciting adventure this is for your STEM students!
The first zip line we tried in the STEM lab was an experiment and design challenge. Students tested different kinds of lines and ways to attach their passenger carriers to the line. They used their testing data to improve their passenger carriers and deliver the ultimate ride. This was a 5th-grade project.
Imagine how sad my third and fourth graders were. These groups also wanted to have a zip-lining adventure.
So, I invented two more challenges with zip lines, and today we are going to focus on the Christmas Toy Sleigh Zip Line!
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What is the challenge?
Students build a sleigh to hold toys. The sleigh will not be flown by reindeer. Instead, the sleigh will zip down a line into homes to deliver the toys.
Students must also decide how to attach the runners to the sleigh, decorate it, and secure the toys.
Now, let’s talk about the “toys”. I am sometimes too busy to gather a lot of extra materials. I do try to have students make as much as possible, but I’m all about using what I already have, too. So, our toys are just interlocking cubes. Each team was given about 10.
Speaking of Materials for our Christmas Zip Line
I used the easiest thing to gather – paper. We used card stock and construction paper.
Teams did need a piece of string to use in attaching to the zip line. I threw in some other materials that they might also need.
TIP: I knew that students would want to make the runners on the sleigh that would resemble a real sleigh. So, I needed something flexible. Okay, what about pipe cleaners? Perfect. Also perfect- I had some that were Christmas colors!
TIP: I always load plastic bins like the ones in the photo and hand these out to teams. It’s much easier and quicker than having students choose their own things.
Time to Build our Christmas Zip Line
Students got to work building a box shape for the sleigh and trying the “toys” to see how they would fit.
Attaching those runners turned out to be tricky.
And attaching the string was a little challenging, too.
TIP: I tried this challenge with third grade and I allowed them to secure the toys. For 4th graders, I added a rule that the toys could not be covered. This made the Christmas Zip Line a little harder.
As the sleigh zipped down the line, the weight of the toys would make the sleigh tip. What a great problem this was to solve!
Zipping Down the Line
After creating the Christmas sleighs, students tried them on the zip line. They attached to the line with a paper clip, started at the highest point of the line, let go, and watched to see if the sleigh could land successfully. Sadly, many sleighs of toys were dumped to the ground!
The models were all different! The one on the top left is tilting dangerously. You can see that some of the toys have shifted to the front of the sleigh.
The sleigh on the top right was more successful because it was short.
TIP: I use fishing line for our zip lines. We have tried string and plastic cord. The fishing line works best. I have several lines tied to the tops of our whiteboards. I leave them up all the time. I just roll the line up when we are finished and tape it to the wall. Saves me time later!
Who is this challenge for?
I have tried the challenge with 3rd and 4th graders. If I were to try this with 5th graders I would add a few more rules to make it more challenging. You could add a sleigh size rule and have students make a Santa sitting in the sleigh.
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