This is the time of year students start to drag and it’s becoming harder and harder to hold their attention.
It is the ideal time to throw in a hands-on activity to get them excited, competitive, and engaged. The Strong Tower Challenge is a STEM activity I have used for years with my students to emphasize the importance of teamwork and strong communication. However, there are plenty of ways you can tie in math and science content as well. The video above gives instructions for how to do the Challenge with your class.
If you get a chance to do this with your students, PLEASE send me pics/video and let me know how it goes!
After You Watch the Video
Epic Project Based Learning is all about making work engaging and relevant for students. I've also used The Strong Tower Challenge as an ice breaker at the beginning of the year to teach and reinforce important skills with students before diving into PBL. Something I do as a pre-PBL ice breaker is have a student from each group bring the TAPE into the hallway at the beginning of the challenge, but not pause the clock for the rest of the students. That way, the rest of the group has to operate without being able to talk AND without a vital supply. Needless to say, their towers do not turn out great without tape. I then give another 10 minutes, this time with everyone and all supplies present.
It always goes much better the second round, and so we follow the activity with a discussion about how collaborative project work goes smoother and more efficient when everyone brings their full selves to the project. Great teamwork relies on everyone contributing, and The Challenge models that beautifully.