Toothpick Towers Tips and Tricks

This challenge, with only two materials, is the best ever.

Yes, you have heard me say that many times, but this time I mean it.

It is fun. It is hard. Really hard. And the kids want it to work so much. They persevere. They start over. They never give up.

It's pretty perfect. 

It's the great Toothpick Tower Challenge!


The perfect STEM Challenge- kids love it and it only uses two materials! It's the great Toothpick Tower. You have choices of two different building materials to use with toothpicks. Kids are very innovative about joining the parts together and you will love watching them. The resource comes with a detailed teacher's guide, lab sheets, and a scoring rubric! #STEM #elementary

You really only need two materials!

Now, having said that, I also do this one in two different ways. Both use toothpicks and I have some tips about those!

BEST PHOTO EVER

At different times of the day, our STEM Lab gets an abundance of brilliant sunshine. It's enough that we frequently move two lab tables to get the kids out of the sun. I cannot block that light because it comes from a dome so we just deal with it. And take great pictures. Take a look below!

The perfect STEM Challenge- kids love it and it only uses two materials! It's the great Toothpick Tower. You have choices of two different building materials to use with toothpicks. Kids are very innovative about joining the parts together and you will love watching them. The resource comes with a detailed teacher's guide, lab sheets, and a scoring rubric! #STEM #elementary

Isn't that fabulous?

Now, for the truth about the photo. The young man that made that little creation was not building anything. He was just playing. I snapped the picture and then fussed a little.

THE FIRST VERSION OF THIS CHALLENGE

For version number 1 - we use toothpicks and modeling dough. I have a couple of tips or you about this!
The perfect STEM Challenge- kids love it and it only uses two materials! It's the great Toothpick Tower. You have choices of two different building materials to use with toothpicks. Kids are very innovative about joining the parts together and you will love watching them. The resource comes with a detailed teacher's guide, lab sheets, and a scoring rubric! #STEM #elementary

TIP: Round toothpicks work best, but they are very sharp. They can stab into your fingers if you are not careful. So, I always warn the kids about this. Flat toothpicks are less likely to stab you but they are a little flimsy.

TIP: Modeling dough can be tricky. Kids love it and they love to make those long skinny worms out of the dough. But, the more you play with dough the warmer it gets, and the warmer it gets, the more flimsy it is as a building material. So, hands off!

BUILDING TECHNIQUES

Kids try all sorts of ways to connect with toothpicks. I love watching them!

The perfect STEM Challenge- kids love it and it only uses two materials! It's the great Toothpick Tower. You have choices of two different building materials to use with toothpicks. Kids are very innovative about joining the parts together and you will love watching them. The resource comes with a detailed teacher's guide, lab sheets, and a scoring rubric! #STEM #elementary

Above, one team member builds the pieces while another connects them! Great way to learn about an assembly line!

Below, several more ways to connect!

The perfect STEM Challenge- kids love it and it only uses two materials! It's the great Toothpick Tower. You have choices of two different building materials to use with toothpicks. Kids are very innovative about joining the parts together and you will love watching them. The resource comes with a detailed teacher's guide, lab sheets, and a scoring rubric! #STEM #elementary

Invariably, the towers that succeed are the ones with a great base and not much dough at the top.

Modeling dough is heavy!

VERSION #2

This one came about accidentally- when I forgot to buy modeling dough and had some mini-marshmallows on hand. (I have no clue why I had them!)

The perfect STEM Challenge- kids love it and it only uses two materials! It's the great Toothpick Tower. You have choices of two different building materials to use with toothpicks. Kids are very innovative about joining the parts together and you will love watching them. The resource comes with a detailed teacher's guide, lab sheets, and a scoring rubric! #STEM #elementary
We also added a twist to this version. Students had to draw a blueprint of their tower before they could build it. Then they had to build it exactly like the blueprint!

TIP: Marshmallows are completely different than modeling dough. They can be very sticky so keep some wet washcloths on hand. This will help clean sticky fingers and your table tops.

TIP: Open the fresh bag of marshmallows and let them dry out a little before you use them. They can be very flimsy when too fresh!

Whichever version you try of this one, I promise, your kids will love it! Two materials = win-win!




The perfect STEM Challenge- kids love it and it only uses two materials! It's the great Toothpick Tower. You have choices of two different building materials to use with toothpicks. Kids are very innovative about joining the parts together and you will love watching them. The resource comes with a detailed teacher's guide, lab sheets, and a scoring rubric! #STEM #elementary


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