Back to School STEM Challenge Activity - Apples Aloft Apple Tower

Rated 4.97 out of 5, based on 137 reviews
137 Ratings
Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • Zip
31 pages
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Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
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This back-to-school STEM / STEAM Challenge brings the joy back to your classroom with collaborative, hands-on, brain-busting work (disguised as fun)!

Of course, this challenge is also great for any time of year, but especially in the fall when learning about apples, Johnny Appleseed, or Sir Isaac Newton!

The basic premise:

Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build the tallest tower possible using symbols of the back-to-school season: apples and school supplies!


Note: This is the printable version. If you are in a 1:1 / paperless classroom, you will want to check out the digital option for use with GOOGLE SLIDES (TM) instead.

If you have questions about which version is right for you, please feel free to leave me a question using the product Q&A below.


Resource includes:

NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8

Teacher Tips

  • Links to STEM Challenge How-To videos
  • Materials and timing
  • Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
  • Measuring results
  • Post-design extension activities list
  • Link to a video walk-through of the challenge

Student Handouts

  • Criteria & Constraints List (color and black & white; editable version provided)
  • Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) (editable and in color and black & white)
  • Discussion Questions (editable and in color and black & white)

Extension templates

  • Process Flow Map
  • Create Math Problems Based on Designs
  • Worksheet: Estimate and measure distances in the classroom and around the school in Apples Aloft towers (two versions plus editable versions provided)
  • Optional secondary challenge (Apple Abater) with Criteria & Constraints List and Design Analysis handouts


This is one of five challenges available at a discount in theBack-to-School STEM Challenge Bundle

This resource is also available in the STEM CHALLENGE YEAR-ROUND MEGA-BUNDLE at an even greater discount!


Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified.

  • Small apple (1)
  • Unsharpened pencils (6 - 12)
  • Rubber bands (5)
  • Pocket folder with prongs (1)
  • File folder or pocket folder without prongs may be substituted
  • Index cards (5 – 10)
  • Tape (12 – 24 in.)
  • Paper lunch bags (1 – 2)
  • Ruler or measuring tape (for measuring, not a building material)
  • Scissors
  • Design analysis handouts (included)


  • Markers or highlighters
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Notebook paper
  • String or yarn
  • Glue sticks


What do teachers have to say about this resource?

“My students were very engaged in this project. It provided a great team-building activity for the first days of school. Thanks!”

“What a great way to see your students' personalities! This was way too much fun for all!”

“This was a great product to introduce my class to STEM activities at the beginning of the year. It was simple, fun, and challenging.”

"This was SO MUCH FUN!!! I teach 4-8 special education and one of my students said, "This is the best school day ever!" when we finished the activity. Thank you!"

"So much fun! Again, I used it in our after school CLC program with 5-11 year old. All had fun!"

"This was great! I have students from 5th grade to 8th grade and all just loved it."

"Awesome STEM challenge! Perfect for the first week of school or back to school from a break. Thank you!"

"Did this today! The kids ABSOLUTELY loved it and I loved that I was able to pick and choose what I needed to include!"


You might also like these resources:

Analyze and Interpret Data Unit

Back to School Ice Breaker Activity

Back to School STEM Challenge Activities: 1:1 PAPERLESS Version

Build a Boat STEM Challenge Mini Bundle

Card Tower STEM Challenge Mini Bundle

Halloween STEM Challenge Bundle

Oral and Written Communication Skills Task Cards

STEM Challenges: Year-Round Mega Bundle

Summer / End of the Year STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle


Please check out the video preview to see the challenge, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!


Video preview music credit:

"Carefree" Kevin MacLeod (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Total Pages
31 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
90 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.


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