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- Toilet Paper (1 roll each; the cheaper, the better)
- Plastic bowl or container (preferably with transparent sides)
- Plastic eggs (12 of various sizes or all one size)
- If a group creates a nest with greater capacity than 12 eggs, have groups buddy up for testing to share their eggs.
- Binder clips (4)
- Yarn (12 – 24 four-inch strips)
- Design analysis handouts (included in resource)
Are There Other Spring Activities Like This?
there. It’s finally spring, and that means the start of the spring and Easter
STEM challenges. Today we’re starting with Nice Nest. Now, students are trying
to build a nest for maximum capacity using some unusual materials. Let’s check
out those materials and the STEM Challenge Cycle.
is the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every challenge. I’ve defined
each step in another video. I’ve added a pop-in card to that video here as well
as a link in the description.
couple of notes on materials. If you want the challenge to be difficult, you
want the cheapest toilet paper you can find. Go to the 99 cent store or even
your school restrooms, probably. If you have younger students and you want it
to be a little bit easier, get a higher quality toilet paper because it’s going
to be more durable and will hold more eggs.
the yarn in this challenge, I like to give that to students in small strips. I
typically use four-inch strips, and I’ll give 12 to 24 of those, depending on
the age group. But if you have younger students, you’re going to want to make
those strips a little bit longer, maybe eight to 12 inches, even. Now, you
should not be the one cutting these strips up. Instead, give groups a long
piece of yarn and then just add in the constraints that they have to cut it up
to four-inch strips or six-inch strips.
are three main criteria in this challenge. The nest must hover above the
ground. It’s helpful in order to see if the nest is touched down if you have a
clear container like this. If you don’t have clear containers and you use
something like a cereal box or a kleenex box, then you’ll want to just cut in a
little viewfinder on the side so students can check that. The eggs must be
inside the nest. They can’t be resting along the edge of the container. And the
last main criteria is that the nest must predominantly be made of toilet paper.
Now, I give the students the entire roll in order to make that pretty simple.
make this challenge a little bit more difficult, one thing you can do is make
it rain, so test its weather durability by actually pouring water on it. You
can weigh down the eggs by adding something inside. Maybe rice or beans is
easiest. You could also just use sand, but just be aware that a lot of the eggs
have little tiny holes in them, so if you use sand you’ll probably have to plug
up the hole with some clay or tape. Another thing you can do is either reduce
the materials or eliminate them altogether, and in place you’ll have the
students do a campus walk and they’ll collect, from what they can find on the
ground, materials in order to make their nest, just like the birds do.
students are going to test their nests until one of two things happens. Either
they can’t fit any more eggs in because it has reached maximum capacity, or the
nest collapses under the weight. There are a few different ways that you can
assign points to the eggs. The first is just to give one point per egg, which
works best when the eggs are the same size. In this case, you can see I have
some small eggs and some larger eggs, so I could just say, “One point for
the small eggs and two points for the large ones.” Another thing I could
do, if I added weight to the eggs, is to actually weight each egg and count my
capacity in terms of the weight. I could also measure the volume of each egg,
and in that case I would use a water displacement measurement of volume, since
the eggs are an odd shape. For an egg to count, it has to be completely inside
the nest. If it’s receiving any support from the container, or in this case a
binder clip, it would not count.
the groups have done their first measurement, if their nests are still hovering
above the ground and have not failed yet, then I would consider doing the rain
test. You can either use measuring cups or something less precise, like a
bathroom cup. Using a small amount, maybe a quarter cup, 50 milliliters, or one
bathroom cup, pour the water in a spiral motion over the nest. If none of eggs
fall out, repeat until one does. At that point, you’re going to cut off the
measurement. In that case, groups will have two measurements for the efficiency
of their design. The maximum capacity when dry and the amount of water the nest
could take before it hit its breaking point.
order to extend on this, anything about birds is going to work really well. You
could look at bird adaptations for the types of food they eat and their
environment, especially their beaks and the presence of talons. You can study
various animal habitats even outside of birds, so we could just look at a
specific animal, or groups like reptiles and fish, mammals, amphibians. We
could compare and contrast any of those groups.
could look at the fact that there are many different types of birds that don’t
seem really related to each other when you look at them, an ostrich and a
penguin, a hummingbird and an eagle, a flamingo and heron. You could assign a
different bird to each group, have each group do some quick research, present
to the class, and then have the students draw out, what are the unifying
factors of birds?
have students create work problems based on their designs. Particularly when
you have a challenge like this with many different colors and sizes of eggs, it
opens itself up to fractions as part of a set, ratios, percentages, and more.
If you want to tie in some ELA, try exploring bird and egg idioms.
you have everything you need in order to do this challenge in your classroom on
your own, but of course I have a lot of extra goodies at the resource, so make
sure you check it out.
time-saving resource contains everything you need, including modifications for
use with second through eighth graders. You’ll still need to gather the simple
materials, of course, but the rest has been done for you. You’ll get Aligned
Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM challenge How-to videos to
help you get the most from each challenge, and the Nice Nest Materials list. In
teacher tips, you’ll find premise and setup, how to increase or decrease
difficulty through the criteria and constraints list, measuring results, and
cross-curricular extension suggestions. You’ll find an editable Criteria and Constraints
list, so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For Student Handouts,
there are two versions. Four-page expanded room for response for younger
students and a two-page condensed space paper saver version. You’ll also find a
set of group discussion questions. In the Extension Handouts, you’ll find bird
research and idioms logs, as well as math extension and process flow templates.
resource is available individually and is part of the discounted Easter/Spring and
Mega STEM challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the
really love this challenge. I think it’s because of the toilet paper. It just
makes it kind of silly and fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Make sure
you don’t forget to like and subscribe, and come back next week. I’m going to
post two videos, Egg Hands and Basket Bounce. Have a great week. I will see you