Thinking STEM: The Cup Stacking Challenge

Progress Tests are done, Reports need to be written. Children still need to learn but at this point in the year, are thoroughly over being taught. What to do?

When browsing some teaching blogs recently,I came across a school running an ‘integrated science class’: A mix of Grade 3-Grade 8 learners who are split into teams and given a STEM challenge each week to solve. You can check out the website here

Myself and a colleague decided to give it a go for a Science class this week. We combined our Y3,4,5 and 6 classes and split them into teams of 4 that each had a range of older and younger learners. Then we presented The Challenge

Stack the cups… without touching them!

Objectives

  • To work cooperatively in a group situation in order to achieve a bigger goal
  • To investigate how to solve an engineering challenge using limited materials

The Materials

  • Cups (6 per group – add more later if they’r finding 6 too easy)
  • Elastic bands (several per group)
  • String

What to do

Quite Simpy, we gave the students the materials, told them to stack the cups into a pyramid without touching them (no use of mouths!) and said GO!

After a slightly baffled silence, students immediately raced off into trying different methods to get the job done – there are many options. The awesome thing about challenges like is that students are forced to think creatively , be confident and not give up. It was also wonderful having older and younger students working together as there is so much they have to teach each other.

We gave the students a while to practise and find a good technique and then had a timed race to see how could get their pyramid up first. It was a great lesson that everyone enjoyed and we will definitely do something similar in the future!

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