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Back to School STEM Challenge: Apples Aloft

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7 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!

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


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!

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:

• 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

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: July 28
- 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

Plus, there is an optional, secondary challenge with:
- Criteria & Constraints List (editable version provided)
- Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included)

Extension templates
- Worksheet: Estimate and measure distances in the classroom and around the school in Apples Aloft towers (two versions plus editable versions provided)
- Process Flow Map
- Math Extension

Note: If you have purchased some of my non-holiday STEM challenges, this is a lighter – though not necessarily light – approach. Please download the preview to see the challenge, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!

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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