Structures and Materials- Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Challenges

Grade Levels
3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th
Product Rating
File Type
PDF (Acrobat) Document File
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3.15 MB   |   58 pages


Challenge your students to show you what they have learned about building structures, critical thinking, testing materials and problem solving with these twenty open-ended problem solving challenges for a structures and materials unit. They are designed like STEM or STEAM challenges.

Each challenge includes teacher instructions and a student task poster. Student planning pages (for individuals and groups), self-assessment pages (for individuals and groups), a marking guide and a few hints to make modifications (without extra prep) for a variety of student needs. Hints for marking strategies are included with examples. The "answers" to the challenges are not included as these tasks are meant to focus on the process not the "answer."

These tasks require students to have access to a variety of materials to build their structures. Materials needed are: a variety of recyclable materials, straws, plasticine/modeling clay, toothpicks, wood sticks, stir sticks, wood skewers, variety of tape (clear, masking, packing, duct), different types of glue, hot glue gun, different types of paper, newspaper, cardboard, string, thread, weights (choose a standard item), multiple decks of cards, spaghetti/linguini/lasagna (long pasta) OR anything else students think to use that is safe and available. As these are open-ended tasks, there are not specific lists of materials with each task as students need to choose their own materials for their structure.

The challenges include:
Tower to the Top of the World
Weight Buster Tower
Blowing in the Wind
Pencil Holder
Shape the Pillar
Pillar Size
Pillar Height
1, 2, 3, 4 – How many pillars more?
Location! Location!
Build a Stool
Pasta Beams
Span the Gap
Bridge Deck
Fix that Bridge
Join Together!
Cube It!
Best Arch
Card Tower
Build a Tipi
Open Sesame

A list with all the science concepts is included for each challenge.

This product has been classroom tested with several groups of third grade students. It kept them VERY busy and challenged them to think, plan and cooperate with their classmates. Warning: Your classroom will be a disaster but they will LEARN so much! This product was designed to align with the Alberta Program of Studies Grade 3 Testing Materials and Designs and the Building with a Variety of Materials units, but the challenges are basic enough to be completed with any students in grades 2-6 with success.

You might be interested in some of our other science products.

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What our customers have said about this product:

***Really like the activities that get the students up and really thinking about how things are made, built, and created. Great resource. (Thank you Buyer!)

***I have loved using this in my class! Students have benefited! Thank you! (Thank you Shawna F!)

Thank you for your consideration! Happy building from the Brain Ninjas! And we apologize in advance for the destruction of your classroom while your students build :)
Total Pages
Answer Key
Rubric only
Teaching Duration
1 Month

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Structures and Materials- Critical Thinking & Problem Solv
Structures and Materials- Critical Thinking & Problem Solv
Structures and Materials- Critical Thinking & Problem Solv
Structures and Materials- Critical Thinking & Problem Solv