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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 is a great intro to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which is part of 3rd and middle school NGSS standards! (3PS2-1, MS-PS2-1, and MS-PS2-2)
The basic premise:
Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build an apple wrecking ball built for annihilation!
• Students will set up marker “bowling pins” and try to knock down as many as possible using their apple wrecking ball designs.
Of course, this challenge is also great for any time in the fall when learning about apples and Johnny Appleseed!
Note: This version is for use with Google Slides in 1:1/paperless classrooms. If you prefer to print and have students complete work with paper/pencil, you'll want to look at the printable version 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.
NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8
- 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
- Criteria & Constraints List (editable version provided)
- Directions for setting up markers (optional printable version of guides included in teacher PDF)
- Design Analysis
- Discussion Questions
- Process Flow Map
- Create & Solve Math Problems Based on Designs
- Several video & website slides for broadening understanding of forces & motion
Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:
(Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified. )
– Set of markers (10)
• Markers will be used like bowling pins, so must stand on their own Crayola or broad highlighters work well
– Apple (1)
– Pocket folder with prongs (1)
• File folder or pocket folder without prongs may be substituted
– Small or medium binder clips (1 – 2)
– Unsharpened pencils (4 – 6)
– Tape (24 – 36 in.)
– String or yarn (36 – 48 in.)
– Design analysis handouts (included)
– Marker “bowling pin” handouts (included)
• Cardboard boxes, tubes, or scraps (helpful in building a support structure and base for the wrecking ball rather than attaching to desk/table)
• Craft sticks
• Pipe cleaners
• Rubber bands
Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:
- Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
- Helps students develop growth mindset traits like persistence and resilience
- 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 ~60-90 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.
You might also like these resources:
STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):
Or these great resources:
Please check out the preview to see the challenge, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!