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.
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.
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?
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:
- Toothpicks (I like giving each group of students one of these small toothpick containers of 250, so that each group has the same amount)
- Tape measure
- Pencils and paper for each group
- Plastic baggies to store apples
- Sprite (to keep the apples from browning as quickly)
- STEM Journal for each group to jot down design ideas and record what went right or wrong with their design
If you need more ideas for back to school STEM challenges, check out the FREE list of challenges by clicking the image below!
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.
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.
- Amazing Bending Pencil Experiment That’s Just Like Magic!
- EASY! 3 Steps to the Perfect Leak Proof Bag Science Experiment
- No Prep STEM Challenges Perfect for the Classroom!
- Engineering and Math STEM Challenge
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.
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?