The Kilmer Library Makerspace is in its third year. Our goal in establishing this space was to create a open access space for messy and creative learning. We have found that while some students thrive on true open making, others need a bit more targeted focus: that's where challenges come in. This week's Take5 offers some simple, low tech challenges that can work with students of all levels, don't require a makerspace (only a maker mindset), and are easy to pull together at a moment's notice. Why not have a maker challenge day for your students as you close out the school year?
Paper Bag Challenge
Incredibly easy to implement, we fill brown paper bags with a variety of found items (pipe cleaners, paper clips, rubber bands, stickers, small tubes, foam peanuts, etc.) and, in teams of two, students build something -- anything. Use this activity as an open-ended makerspace task or as an end-of-unit wrap-up, asking students to create something that represents an event or concept from the unit.
With a bin of LEGOs and some idea cards, it's easy to help support your student master builders. Cards might say something like "build something that can roll forward at least 2 inches when pushed" or "make a catapult." You can find printable LEGO challenge cards all over the web:
This year, we did a series of paper airplane challenges. We offered paper, books and web links for paper airplane designs and then set up zones for testing accuracy (a starting line + a target) distance (a starting line + a tape measure), and time in flight. (a starting line + a timer). It was great for our students to compare their own results in one zone with another, discovering that a really accurate airplane might not stay in the air the longest, moving back to design to make changes and testing again.
My co-librarian Susanna coordinated a pipe cleaner tower challenge based on an idea from Vivify. In teams of two, students were given 16 pipe cleaners and about 8 minutes to build the tallest tower. After several minutes, we made an announcement: 1 person from each team lost an arm -- they were to continue working, with only 3 arms. Several minutes later, another announcement: a virus swept through the room and everyone lost their voices (= no talking). At the end of the challenge, we assessed which team had the highest tower and talked about how some of the trials they faced impacted their work.
We've done a couple similar challenges involving paper. My favorite one was to provide students with six pieces of plain white copy paper and six pieces of masking tape and then task them with building a strong table that could hold books. We then tested each group's table with stacks of books and declared a winning team at 36 books! We also did a paper chair challenge: with one piece of copy paper, build a paper chair that will support the weight of a stuffed animal tester.
Other great materials for challenge tasks might include large SOLO cups, cardboard sheets and boxes, balsa wood, or newspaper rolls. Try an "improve it" challenge and ask your students to choose an ordinary object (a stapler, scissors, a paper clip, a mug, etc.) and create a design to make it better. The options are endless! What kinds of challenges have worked to engage your students? I'd love to hear from you!
You might also like:
Who We Are
Join our list!