I started volunteering in classrooms in 2007, and since then, I've conducted over 350 - 400 science projects in classrooms. I usually have projects I do each month, and I follow that because it gets too confusing to schedule different projects in 9 - 12 classrooms a month. Well, this month, it was our last project of the year in one of my second grade classes, and the teacher and I couldn't really think of a special project (after all these years, I struggle to make these projects fresh and interesting to children who were already exposed to them in the previous year and to myself as well). So, I just gathered up the supplies I had left over, and headed for the classroom. This was going to be a very open-ended project (the kind I like best).
This is what I gave to a class of 2nd graders (four groups of six students but smaller the better).
25 straws (Dollar Store variety)
6 bamboo chopsticks (3 pairs)
I told the students to make a tower of some kind that would hold up at least one of their hard cover, heavy textbooks. I had 1 1/2 hours, and I gave them first hour to come up with a design and build their first version. After the first hour, this group built a structure that held almost 2 textbooks when all the other groups failed.
After the first design and build attempt, I gave additional five straws and another pair of chopsticks to all the groups with some ideas to make their structures stronger.
Well, this is the result and it blew me away. I thought maybe, just maybe a 2nd grader group could build something that would support 3 - 4 textbooks, but a group of them built something that held up 9 textbooks. That's probably between 20 - 25 pounds or more (I tend to underestimate weight consistently). What an awesome achievement! Another lesson in underestimating our children.
I actually think this structure could have held at least one more book, but we didn't have it handy. A little boy ran to the shelf to get another book when it collapsed. Amazing!
Without the books on top.
This turned out to be one of the best projects! I'm definitely going to use this project next year.
Try it at home and have fun.