STEM Challenge Flood Barrier

Rated 4.91 out of 5, based on 239 reviews
239 Ratings
Teachers Are Terrific
Grade Levels
4th - 6th
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25 +editable
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Very helpful in planning a STEM activity to go with my weather hazards unit. I love all the helpful tips, photos, and information for planning purposes!
Love how well this project targets the NGSS standard. My kids loved designing and building. I loved that you figured out all the details so I could focus on teaching.
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This is another STEM challenge that features experimenting first and then designing using the experiment data to make decisions! This one is a spectacular event that will have kids measuring liquids, analyzing data, and then building a barrier to control a small flooding event.

Note: This challenge can be purchased in money-saving bundles!

What is the challenge?

  • This multi-day challenge is to experiment with absorbent materials to try to find the one that absorbs the most water. Then students are challenged to use available items to build a barrier that will slow or stop the flow of water.
  • One of the building items can be the absorbent material the team found to be the best. The rest of the materials are just things you gather that they can use to build a barrier. The barrier is built inside a pan and when the team is ready you will pour two cups of water into the pan to see if the barrier works.
  • The tricky part of this challenge is that the house is made of paper! So, the barrier must work!
  • The scenario we used for this challenge was to build a barrier to protect a doghouse!
  • In addition to the experiment and building of the barrier, students will also work with a budget feature for the task. The building items will be priced and students will choose these while staying within a given budget. The cost sheet we used is provided, as well as an editable cost sheet in case you need to change the building items and/or prices.

What is your prep?

Materials you will need in addition to this package include 5-6 different items to test for absorbency (like cotton balls and sponges), foam cups, graduated cylinders, dishpans or aluminum trays, stopwatches, craft sticks, straws, paper clips, rubber bands, and masking tape. Optional building materials include sand, modeling dough, or clay. You will also need to set up cups or bottles with water ready to pour into the flood pans and you will need to have towels in case of spills.

This package specifically contains:

  • Cover page
  • Teacher Background page
  • Table of Contents
  • Materials and Preparation page
  • 3 pages of Teacher Directions applicable to the experiment portion of the task
  • 3 pages of Teacher Directions for the building portion of the task
  • Student lab sheets
  • Cost sheet for the building portion (students follow a budget)
  • 4 pages of helpful hints
  • 5 pages of Photos
  • Scoring rubric
  • Terms of Use page
  • All forms are provided in an editable file. The teacher direction pages include photos and samples of student work.

You might also like these Experiment and Design Challenges:

This challenge can be purchased as part of money-saving bundles:


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Total Pages
25 +editable
Answer Key
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Make a claim about the merit of a design solution that reduces the impacts of a weather-related hazard. Examples of design solutions to weather-related hazards could include barriers to prevent flooding, wind resistant roofs, and lighting rods.
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.
Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.


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