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Apple Tower STEM Challenge Lesson Plan for Elementary

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One of my favorite things to do in the STEM classroom is to use common everyday items in new ways to create fun STEM challenges for students. During the back to school season, I like to work with materials that are fall-themed, like apples. In this apple tower STEM challenge students will compete to see who can create the tallest and sturdiest tower using only apple pieces and toothpicks! This is one of our favorite no prep STEM challenges.

Easy engineering activity for elementary kids! The apple tower STEM challenge teaches kids the basics of engineering and design!

If you want to challenge your students to start thinking with design and engineering in mind, starting early is a great idea! Apples are a fun addition to a traditional building challenge that make it fun for back to school.

Keep reading to grab the apple tower STEM challenge lesson plan and learn what you need to set up your own engineering challenge in the classroom!

Apple Tower STEM Challenge Lesson Plan

This creative STEM challenge is the perfect simple STEM challenge to get children thinking like engineers.

back to school stem challenges

First, set up the conditions for the STEM challenge. Tell the students that they will divide into groups of 4-5 students and compete to see which group can create the tallest apple tower using the given supplies.

Make sure to discuss the basics of engineering and what makes a good design. What elements are needed to keep a tall structure from falling?

apple engineering tower challenge

What are some of the techniques that structural engineers use to keep tall buildings standing, even in heavy winds?

I love open-ended STEM challenges like these because it not only helps kids discover design solutions, but it also sets the tone for creative, yet logically thought out thinking from the first few days of school.

What Do You Need to Do the Apple Tower STEM Challenge?

You will need 2 apples for each group of students, which you can purchase from a local grocery store. You will also need:

apple stem challenge

If you need more ideas for back to school STEM challenges, check out the FREE list of challenges by clicking the image below!

back to school stem challenges

Additional STEM Challenges for This Lesson

There are a lot of things you can test using apples and toothpicks. For example, you can test the stability of each design by putting it on a paper plate and shaking gently to represent an earthquake.

Use a box fan to blow air at the towers and see if they get damaged to represent severe weather.

Ask your students for additional ideas on what other tests they could conduct on their apple towers.

Apple tower STEM challenge lesson plan! Learn how to teach the basics of engineering in a fun way in this easy STEM engineering challenge.

When setting up a STEM challenge give children a specific direction or handicap, but let them use their creativity to build their towers however they think best. This will help the children retain the information they learned during the discussion portion of the lesson.

More Back to School STEM Activities

The apple tower STEM challenge is a lot of fun, but there are many other fun STEM activities that you can do for back to school that are just as fun! Try some of these simple STEM and science experiments during the first few weeks of school.

back to school stem challenges

Get the simple directions for how to teach this apple tower STEM challenge to a group of elementary students. You can even print these directions and keep them on hand for when you do the actual experiment.

How to Teach the Apple Tower STEM Challenge

How to Teach the Apple Tower STEM Challenge

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Active Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Difficulty: easy

Using apples is a fun way to turn engineering on its head! In this apple tower STEM challenge students will learn how to construct towers using toothpicks and apple pieces and even whole apples!


  • Apples (2 per group)
  • Toothpicks (1 box per group)
  • Plastic baggies (1 per group)
  • Paper and pencils for each group


  • Measuring Tape
  • Knife


  1. Before bringing the apples to the classroom, cut the apples into 1-inch cubes. You can drop the apples into Sprite before placing into plastic baggies to keep them from browning as fast. Give each student group about two apples worth of pieces.
  2. Make sure every bag has the same number of apple pieces.
  3. Challenge the students to think about different types of designs and structures that they have seen.
  4. Explain that each group will use engineering skills to try to build the tallest tower with the apple pieces that they have.
  5. Give a bag of apples and a box of toothpicks to each group in the classroom.
  6. Set a timer for 10 minutes and allow the kids to brainstorm construction ideas. apple engineering tower challenge
  7. Set a 20 minute timer to allow the students time to build their structures.
  8. Use a measuring tape to see which group had the tallest tower.
  9. Discuss the strengthens and weaknesses of each design. Just because a tower was the tallest, did that also make it the strongest?

    Don’t forget to grab your FREE august STEM challenge cards above, and let me know, what are your favorite STEM activities to do when school starts?

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