Back to School STEM Challenge: Apples A-head 1:1 PAPERLESS

Rated 5 out of 5, based on 10 reviews
10 Ratings
Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
  • Google Apps™
30 pages
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Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
Includes Google Apps™
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  1. Back-to-School STEM / STEAM challenges are a great way to build community, establish procedures, and get to know how your kids tick! Plus, they’re a great intro to forces and interactions and Newton’s three laws of motion, which are part of 3rd, 5th grade and middle school NGSS standards! (3PS2-1,
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  3. 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 ba
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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)!

The basic premise:

In groups, students will design and build a wearable device to balance an apple on their heads, which they will use to participate in an Apples A-head relay race.

– Students will design their headwear in groups, but each will make his/her own (to minimize any lice concerns). They can decide as a team, and based on available materials, if each member will create unique designs or replicate the team design.

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!


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.


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 Slides

- Criteria & Constraints List (editable version provided)

- Design Analysis

- Discussion Questions

Extension slides

- Process flow map

- Create & solve math problems based on designs

- Video/website linked pages to explore gravity, Isaac Newton, Johnny Appleseed, and William Tell

- Apple writing templates

- Gravity research log


Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

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

– Apple (1)

– Pencils (12 – 16)

– Rubber bands (10 – 20)

– Pocket folder with prongs (1)

• File folder or pocket folder without prongs may be substituted

– Pipe cleaners (10 - 12)

– Paper lunch bags (2 – 3)

– Tape (24 – 36 in.)

– String or yarn (24 – 36 in.)

– Stopwatch or second timer

– Scissors

– Design analysis handouts (included)


• Craft sticks

• Cardboard scraps

• Paperclips

• Foil


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.


What do teachers have to say about this resource?

Note: Comments taken from the print version.

“I did this with my class today and they could not have raved more about it! The kids were so engaged....they didn't even realize how much engineering they were actually doing! I love how you have the link to the YouTube video as well. It really helped me, as a teacher, to organize myself to teach this lesson! Thank you so much for your hard work.”

“This was the most fun to watch and kids had to really think. We will be doing this every year!”

“Best STEM activity of the year so far....thanks!”

“Great way to extend Johnny Appleseed activities and get students thinking and working together.”

“Great resource! Easily adapted for my grade 2 students as a beginning of the year getting to know you activity.”


You might also like these resources:

STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):

Apples Aloft 1:1 PAPERLESS

Apples Afar 1:1 PAPERLESS

Apple Annihilator 1:1 PAPERLESS

Back-to-School STEM Bundle

Summer STEM Bundle


Getting Started with STEM Challenges FREEBIE

Or these great resources:

Photosynthesis: Hands-on Modeling Activity

Analyze and Interpret Data Unit

Speak, Listen & Draw Task Cards


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


Total Pages
30 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
90 minutes
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