Activities & Lessons: Buildings and Towers
Activity Topic Grade
Activity Source Time Special
*Canine House of Cards: Construct a paper building strong enough to support a jumbo dog biscuit. Buildings 3-4, 5-6 FETCH! 45 min. Per group: box of dog biscuits
Earthquake in the Classroom: Test earthquake-proof buildings on a pan of Jell-O™. Safety, Earthquake-proofing 3-4, 5-6 Teach Engineering 1 hour Per group: 8 boxes of Jell-O® made ahead of time in an 8 1/2 x 11 disposable roasting or baking pan.
Engineering for the Three Little Pigs: Discover the right materials for the right job. Materials 3-4, 5-6 Teach Engineering 1 1/2 hours Per group: watering can, can of non-stick cooking spray, a few bricks. Per group of builders: 4 cups of sand
*Financial Support: Build a tower that can support 100 pennies. Towers 45 min. ZOOM 45 min. Per group: 3 or 4 sets of 100+ pennies
*Marshmallow Tower: Build a tower as high as you can using only marshmallows. Towers 3-4, 5-6 ZOOM 45 min. n/a
*Paper Tower: Build a structure as tall as you can—using just 2 sheets of newspaper. Towers 3-4, 5-6 ZOOM 45 min. n/a
Space Shelter: Design a shelter to allow humans to survive on a new planet, and explain it in words. Shelters 3-4, 5-6 Teach Engineering 1 1/2 hours n/a
*Stack ‘Em Up: Build a tower just out of cups. Remember, the sky’s the limit. Towers 3-4, 5-6 FETCH! 45 min. n/a
*Straw Tower: Build a skyscraper out of straws. Towers 3-4, 5-6 ZOOM 45 min. n/a
Tall, Sturdy Building: Build a building strong enough for a gorilla! Buildings 3-4, 5-6 ZOOM 45 min. n/a
Teepee: Make a teepee you can sit inside! Teepee 3-4, 5-6 Cyberchase 45 min. n/a
Balsa Towers: Build a tower with balsa wood and glue. Towers 5-6, 7-8 Teach Engineering: 2 hours Per team: several 1/4 x 1/4 in. balsa wood strips, 1/8 inch balsa wood sheets, utility knives
High Rise: Build a tall tower that can support a tennis ball. Towers 5-6, 7-8 Design Squad 45 min. Per group: Electric fan; Per team: a tennis ball
*Newspaper Tower: What the tallest tower you can guild using only two sheets of newspaper? Towers 5-6, 7-8 Building Big 45 min. n/a
Shake It Up! Engineering for Seismic Waves: Design and build shake tables to test the ability of buildings to withstand earthquakes. Safety, Earthquake-proofing 5-6, 7-8 Teach Engineering 1 1/2 hours For leader: a shake table, using a variable speed drill (instructions included); Per team: shoebox, wooden board 10 marbles, hot glue gun.
Shallow and Deep Foundations: Students investigate the differences between shallow and deep foundations. Foundations 5-6, 7-8 Teach Engineering 1 hour Per group: a scale & wood working tools: drill, saw, etc. Per team: cardboard box (12x12x12 in.); potting (about 2 gallons); rocks or pebbles (10 cups); sand (about 1.25 gallons); wood block (2x2x1 in. deep); 1/2-in at least 12.5 in long.
Speedy Shelter: Invent a sturdy shelter that’s easy to build. Shelters 5-6, 7-8 Design Squad 1 hour Per team: 2 cardboard sheets (8.5 x 11 in.); 16 3-ft. bamboo plant stakes; 3 33- or 42-gal. garbage bags
Tall Tower Challenge: Engineer the tallest tower they can build using just straws, pipe cleaners, and paperclips. Towers 5-6, 7-8 Try Engineering 1 hour n/a
Tower Investigation and the Egg: Design and build three types of towers that they hold an egg one foot high for 15 seconds. Towers 5-6, 7-8 Teach Engineering 1 hour Per team: about 10 cardboard tubes and several sheets of cardboard (purchase sheets from local paper suppliers or ask for donations; have students help collect cardboard tubes several weeks ahead of time); an egg.
Leaning Tower of Pasta: Use spaghetti and marshmallows to understand compression and tension. Towers 7-8 Teach Engineering 45 min. n/a

*Indicates whether an activity is suitable for a community event. Activities considered appropriate for a large-scale community event are attention-grabbing but simple; use inexpensive materials; require minimal instruction, supervision, and cleanup; and can be modified to take place over a short period of time (about 15-20 minutes).