Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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SCIENCE ACTIVITIES: The Armadillo Indicator | Construction Challenge Activity | Exploratory Walk | More Science Activities
MATH ACTIVITIES: The Outline of Things | Fractional Parts the "Tan" Way | Building Viewpoints | More Math Activities

This science activity is from the PRISM Parent Outreach Kit workbook.
Your challenge is to build the strongest bridge you can, using only 1/2 sheet of paper. Your children are about to discover something about how to design and build a structure and what configurations make the most stable components.

three sheets of white paper
cut in half lengthwise

an egg carton broken or
cut in half the short way




colored stickers or
Post-it notes

In this activity... your children are about to discover something about how to design and build a structure. Print out the following sheets and pass out one copy to each group:
Construction Challenge Data Sheet

1. Each person in the group will have a role. Depending on the ages of the children in your group, a parent or leader can decide which jobs go to whom.

The Materials Manager:
brings the following items from the materials table to your group and returns them when finished

The Cutter/Questioner:
cuts paper and asks a variety of questions

The Penny Folder:
folds the paper in a variety of ways

The Penny Placer:
everyone takes turns placing the pennies onto the bridge

The Recorder/Reader:
records the group's finding on the Construction Challenge Data Sheet and reads the following rules out loud to the group

Here are some guidelines for building your bridges:

  • The bridge can only be made from 1/2 sheet of plain white paper. Less paper may be used but not more.
  • No glue, tape, or other materials may be used.
  • The paper can be bent, folded, or cut in any way.
  • The egg carton halves must be placed at least 5 inches apart.

2. Assemble and test the bridges described below. Here's what someone might see and hear as you begin explorations:

A Flat Bridge

The Paper Folder: lays the first 1/2 sheet of paper between the egg cartons. (Review the Construction Challenge Data Sheet at the end of this handout to see what this bridge looks like.)

Questioner: asks "Are the egg cartons 5 inches apart? Will this be a strong bridge? How many pennies do we think it can support?"

First Penny Placer: test the bridge by placing pennies, one at a time, on the middle of the bridge.

Recorder: on the data sheet, records the number of pennies the flat bridge held.

3. Continue your investigation using the data sheet and bridge descriptions as guides. Remember, your group may come up with their own ideas for investigating the strength of bridges.

A Two-Layer Flat Bridge: Cut the same 1/2 sheet of paper the long way down the middle to make two equal strips. Lay one on top of the other.

A One-Fold Bridge: Use a new 1/2 sheet of paper and fold it in half the long way. Lay it across the egg cartons to form a one-fold bridge.

A Walled Bridge: Use a fresh 1/2 sheet of paper to make a walled bridge. Fold each long side of the paper so that the bridge has walls on both sides.

An Accordian Bridge: Unfold the one-fold bridge. Use the same paper to make the accordion bridge by folding the long side of the paper back and forth. Lay it across the egg cartons to form the accordion bridge.

A More-Folds Accordian Bridge: Experiment with the number and size of the folds in the accordion bridge.

An Arched Bridge: Use two strips of paper (1/2 sheet of paper cut the long way). Create and arched bridge by placing one strip of paper between the egg cartons. You may need to cut the strip so that the arch is the same height as the cartons.) Place the second strip of paper across the arch and egg cartons.

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