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Back to School STEM Challenge: Apple Ally

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24 MB|31 pages
Product Description
Back-to-School STEM challenges are a great way to build community, establish procedures, and get to know how your kids tick!

Plus, this is a great intro to forces and interactions and Newton’s three laws of motion, which are part of 3rd and middle school NGSS standards! (3PS2-1, MS-PS2-1, and MS-PS2-2)

Of course, this challenge is also great for any time in the fall when learning about apples and Johnny Appleseed!

The basic premise:

In partners/groups, students will design and build an apple catcher to keep falling apples from hitting the ground.


Multiple iterations are recommended to get the most student benefit, but this can also be treated as a one-off activity.


This challenge is available in the Back-to-School 5-in-1 STEM Challenge BUNDLE at a savings of 33% off the cost of buying each challenge separately. What a bargain! ☺

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

Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:
- Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
- High levels of student engagement
- The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)
- Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.

Each design iteration should be planned for at least ~ 60 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. If you add extension activities, you will need to adjust timing accordingly. I recommend working on STEM Design Challenges in multiple iterations to get the full value.
Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified.

Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

– Apple (1)
– Large boxes without lids (at least 10 in. x 10 in. - shoe boxes, shipping boxes, etc.).
– Try to get similarly-sized boxes or supplement the materials of groups with larger boxes.
– For increased difficulty, have students build on a cardboard or foam board base (no raised edges)
– Cylindrical object (1)
– Coffee can, paper towel tube, water bottle, rolled file folder, 6 or more pencils tied together, etc.
– Pencils (10 - 12)
– Pipe cleaners (10)
– Small and/or large paperclips (20)
– Rubber bands (5 – 10)
– Tape (24 – 36 in.)
– String or yarn (24 – 36 in.)
– Ruler
– Scissors
– Design analysis handouts (included)
– Craft sticks
– Foil or lunch bags
– Binder clips
– Decorative green & red paper to build out the tree

Product includes:

NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8

Teacher Tips

- Links to my 5-part video series on getting started with STEM challenges
- Link to short video description this challenge coming: Aug. 11
- Materials and timing
- Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
- Measuring results
- Post-design extension activities list

Student Handouts
- Criteria & Constraints List (editable version provided)
- Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included)
- Discussion Questions

Extension templates
- Estimate & Measure Mass worksheet (2 versions; one includes conversion from grams t0 kilograms and milligrams)
- Task card templates & tips
- Apple-shaped writing template (editable)
- Process Flow Map
- Math Extension


You might also like these products:

Seasonal STEM Design Challenge 5-in-1 Bundles (grades 2 – 8):






Or these great products:

Getting Started with STEM Challenges Freebie

Photosynthesis: Hands-on Modeling Activity

Analyze and Interpret Data Unit

New Earth City STEM Challenge

Card Towers STEM Challenge

Build a Boat STEM Challenge
Total Pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
90 minutes
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Kerry Tracy




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