Back To School STEAM: Book Tower Challenge

Black, white and orange illustrations of books that are open or closed

When you come across tower activities for kids, you might think, “This looks easy. How does this benefit my kids?” First, don’t be fooled! Tower challenges can be more difficult than you think. Second, in addition to teaching children basic STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) principles, tower activities teach kids a wide range of skills that benefit them in school and beyond, including creative thinking, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and problem-solving. Plus, they’re easy to set up and are so much fun for kids!

For this Book Tower STEAM Challenge, kids will need to create a freestanding tower that is as tall as possible using only paper and paper clips. (Feel free to substitute other materials based on the resources you have available, or try out different materials to see how they might build their tower differently.) After building their tower, have them test it to see if it can hold five or more hardback books.

Book Tower STEAM Challenge

Challenge: Using only paper and paper clips, build the tallest freestanding structure possible that can hold at least 5 hardback books.

Materials: 20 sheets of paper, 20 paper clips

Time: 7 minutes (you can modify the time limit for young children)


A. 10 points if your structure is holding 5 hardback books
B. 15 points if your structure is holding 8 or more hardback books
C. 10 points if your paper tower is 11 inches or shorter; 15 points if your paper tower is 12-21 inches; 20 points if your paper tower is 22 inches or more
D. Up to 20 points for how creatively your group uses the materials
E. Up to 20 points for how well your group works together

Processing Questions:

  • What was the hardest part of building your tower?
  • If you could use different materials to build your tower, what would you use?
  • If you were to build your tower again, what would you do differently?


If you enjoyed this activity, download our FREE Teacher’s Guide to the Creative Process, which includes 10 short STEM activities, processing questions for each activity, and a materials list.

Photo of the Teacher's Guide to the Creative Process, including the cover and sample activity instructions


Ready to turn your students’ interests into real-world STEM skills? The Destination Imagination Challenge Experience is our flagship program for pre-K, K-12 and university students. Teams work throughout the school year to develop solutions to our project-based STEAM challenges and then present their solutions live at tournaments. Save your spot at one of our free information sessions to learn more and get your questions answered.