Back to School STEM Challenge - Apple Ally Print and Paperless Bundle

Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
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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)! 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:

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

    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)


    Note: This resource includes both the printable version and the paperless option for use with GOOGLE SLIDES (TM) for 1:1 / paperless classroom.


    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

    Handouts & Google Slides(TM) Options for Student Recording & Reflecting

    • 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
    • Apple writing templates
    • Estimate & Measure Mass worksheet (2 versions; one includes conversion from grams to kilograms and milligrams; editable)
    • Task card templates & tips


    Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

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

    • 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


    What do teachers have to say about this resource?

    "This was perfect. I used this for an observation after our apple unit and my principal loved it. The students were engaged and working together. This was perfect."

    "My students thoroughly enjoyed this activity. It was the perfect STEM activity for our week of apples."

    "The kids loved this! So fun!"

    Total Pages
    Answer Key
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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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