If you’re looking for a straight-forward challenge with the simplest of materials, Card Towers will be right up your alley! This one is a classic, but I’ve got a few ideas to make some tweaks to fire up the imagination and engagement! And this is a special post for the blog/vlog because it means I’ve finally caught up! All 45 STEM challenges (to date) have a blog, complete with video walk-through!
I’m not done yet, but I am thrilled to have finally caught up! Definitely stay tuned; I have more challenges in the hopper for 2017-2018!
Premise: Quick & Easy STEM Card Tower Activity
Working against a Criteria & Constraints List individually or with partners, students will design a tower for maximum height and/or stability. Already been there, done that? I have a few new challenge goals to shake things up.
Where Can I Find Out More?
If you’re familiar with my work, you know I’ve been switching over to using video to explain the bulk of my challenges. It seems to be the best/fastest way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, demonstrations, and more! Who has time to read all that?! However, if you prefer to read it, you’ll find the video transcribed at the end of this post. 🙂
Are There Other STEM Challenges Like This?
Of course! I can’t help myself! While this is a stand-alone challenge, I have created 45 challenges for the entire school year! Most are themed to accompany the seasons. And, as I mentioned at the top, each has its own blog post and video walk-through. You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!
to be talking about Card Towers and today’s a little extra special because
about a year ago I started making these video walk troughs with a goal of
creating some STEM professional development videos as well as a video walk
through for all of my 45 STEM challenges. And this is the 45th STEM challenge.
February we did a version of this called Cards in the Clouds. I’ll put a link
to that video walk through in the description below. You might want to take a
second to check that out either before this video or after, just so that you
get a full sense of all the different options available to you. The main
difference between this and the Valentine’s Day version is this one has options
for deeper data analysis. It also has different ideas for the extension
activities and, of course, I’m gonna give you some ideas today to make this a
completely different, unique version of the challenge so that you could have
done both in your classroom.
0:54 Modifying Constraints, Materials and Extensions
and Constraints List, the Materials and the Extensions. You can modify all
three or just one or two. With that, let’s get started. The first thing you always
want to look at is your Criteria and Constraints List. So, if in Cards in
Clouds you built only for height, you might want to add in the stability
challenge, again, its environmental conditions, like earthquakes, wind or rain.
That’s pretty sturdy.
today. You can provide students with some little plastic people or candies that
have to be incorporated every six inches in the tower or at various levels of
the tower as you see in these examples here. You could also change the main
goal to be the tower with the highest volume. If you do that and you still want
it to be a vertical tower, you’ll probably want to set at least a minimum
height requirement so that they don’t build it out as much as they build up.
And as in the Valentine version, one of my favorite things to do is to give
students and uneven surface on which to build. That definitely adds a lot of
difficulty. So before I said something about putting a book on the table and
their towers had to straddle the book. A small variation on that would be to
have students build over an obstacle, maybe a river, so that each side of the
tower would be on either side of the river.
2:03 Materials: Make the Same Old Card Challenge New Again
this is an area where you can really change the challenge up. As you can see in
this example, I’ve used business cards and if you just put a call out to your
non-teacher friends or the parents of your students, I guarantee you just about
every office in the country has outdated business cards that for whatever
reason, they just never seem to throw away. Now, if you get a lot of these
donations, you’re gonna find that, of course, the business cards are not all
created equal, some are sturdy, some are flimsy, some are slightly different
sizes. Make it a fair challenge. You’ll either need to divide out sort of an
equal amount of each type of card for each group or you can allow the students
to choose the business cards from whatever is available and that material selection
becomes part of the challenge.
size or maybe even 12×12. You could do the same thing with just copy paper.
Something I think that would be really interesting that I haven’t had a chance
to try it yet, is to give every group one full size poster board and see what
they come up with. I have a feeling that it would generate some very different
looking towers. In that case you’ll probably want some step stools available or
just make a decision if you’re okay with students stepping on their chairs,
because I think that there’s a good chance they could build quite tall towers
starting with the poster board.
3:20 Extension Idea: Make It an Ongoing Activity
tower every day, Monday through Thursday using a different primary material.
Every day is a great day for a STEM challenge. Of course, they’re gonna have to
make some adaptations and changes to their designs as they go because something
that works well with one of those materials probably won’t with another. And
then you’ll save your major analysis for the end of the week.
their towers and all of the towers for the class. And try to come up with what
they think is a list of the most critical factors affecting how tall you can
build your tower. So we’ll want to take a look at things like, does the shape
of the tower matter? Does the shape of the base seem to make and impact, or the
perimeter area of that base? And they can pick one of those factors and design
and experiment around it, walking through the steps of the scientific method.
4:10 Play with the Data or Tie into Reading Skills
have students find out the height of the world’s tallest building, tree,
mountain, and then create a relative scale drawing of those objects then have
them create a scale for their tower to make it fit in with the items on that
list. Either to make it taller than all of the items or somewhere in the middle
of those items, or maybe just a little bit shorter.
soars above the Statue of Liberty, then perhaps one inch is equal to 20 feet.
If you want to tie in some ELA, you can have students read or watch different
versions of Rapunzel and then create their own unique, modernized version.
4:56 Resource: Everything You Need + Extra Goodies!
conduct card towers in your class on your own, but as always, I have added a
lot of extra goodies in the resource, so take a second to check it out.
use of second through eight graders. You’ll still need to gather the simple
materials, of course, but the rest is ready and waiting. 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 tower building materials
list. In Teacher Tips you’ll find premise and set-up, how to increase or decrease
difficulty through the Criteria and Constraints list, measuring results and
cross-curricular extension suggestions.
5:32 Criteria and Constraints: Design Analysis
lists so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For student design
analysis handouts there are two versions, five-page expanding room for response
for younger students and a three-page condensed space paper saver version.
You’ll get one set for a height challenge and a second for height and
find class wide data analysis, graphing templates and a design your own
experiment activity, as well as additional math extension design report and
process flow templates. You’ll also receive a detailed teacher guide and
everything that comes with the holiday version of tower building, Cards in the
Clouds. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Mega
STEM challenge bundle. Links can be found in the description below the video.
Every challenge has a video walk through. But, I’m not done. If you’ve been
watching my videos you might have picked up that I try to post once a week.
Over the summer I’m gonna give myself a little bit more flexibility, because I
have some big projects in mind and they’re gonna take a lot of focus. This
means it’s more important than ever to be following my store and Teachers Pay Teachers
and subscribe on YouTube so that you don’t miss anything when I pop in and out
over the summer. And I’m so excited to share with you all the things I have in
store for you this summer and next year, so make sure you stay tuned. Until
next time, have a great week.