Glue, Paper, Scissors: STEM Challenge for Any Day, Any Age, and Anywhere!
For those of you new to STEM, it is simply the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math, and describes an interdisciplinary approach to learning where academic concepts are matched with real world problem-solving challenges.
STEM integration is effective when it includes the following components:
- a meaningful problem to solve
- collaboration among students
- a design challenge
- communication of process and findings
Our rules are:
- Use materials respectfully.
- Stay on task
- Work until time is up. ( Reflect & Redesign if done.)
It’s really important to me that I teach, model, and display appropriate ways for students to communicate to ensure the work is meaningful and learning is authentic. I believe raising the level of discourse during STEM education is a must for students at every level.
These discussion prompts are effective for encouraging smart STEM talk:
- I agree with _____ because...
- I disagree with _____ because...
- Could you please explain more about...
- I would like to add on to that idea...
- I was confused about...
- This reminds me of...
- I was wondering about...
- Another idea I had was...
This challenge, “Glue, Paper, Scissors,” requires students to work as a team to build the longest paper chain using only scissors, 1 glue stick, and construction paper. The students were able to take any paper from our scrap bin for this challenge but in the future I would limit the challenge to 1 piece of construction paper. This is so the students will be able to reflect back on this attempt as they are further challenged to carefully plan how they will build their paper chain using only 1 piece of paper.
I always expect my students to work together to brainstorm ideas, choose the best one, and make a plan during STEM challenges. For this challenge, I recommend that a time should be set based on the age and ability of your students.
My students had an opportunity to go the construction paper scrap box once, and 35 minutes as a time limit.
When the time was up, we placed the chains beside each other to determine which chain was the longest.
Each cooperative small group discussed their plans and strategies with the entire class.
They were expected to discuss ways in which they were successful and things they would do differently in the future.
Another idea for this challenge is to group students by color and give every team a piece of construction paper to match their team color.
A different version of this challenge is to have the teams try to construct the longest possible paper chain using given materials such as tape, a ruler or measuring tape, scissors and 2 pieces of construction paper. They could even be asked to first design and sketch their idea in STEM journals, then construct it, and then record and discuss results.
My students had so much fun with this ‘Glue, Paper, Scissors’ challenge! For more information about the STEM process and another simple to implement STEM challenge you might want to check out this quick podcast episode here.
For even MORE STEM ideas, you might want to check out Educate the Heart: Screen-Free Activities for Grades PreK-6 to Inspire Authentic Learning which is my book ( I may have mentioned it once or 4,000 times) and it has a chapter devoted to STEM challenges to inspire collaboration and critical thinking skills for every age and level.
Thank you so much for taking the time to check out this post. I hope you found it worthwhile and that it inspires you to try this idea or your own version of a paper chain challenge with your children.
I would love to connect further so feel free to reach out by leaving a comment here, via email or messaging me on any of my social media channels. I will be sure to get back to you in a timely fashion.