It’s back-to-school season, and what better way to get kids excited about a new school year than with a fun ice breaker to help everyone get to know one another.
The Paper Tower challenge has been around for decades and is easily one of the best STEAM activities of all time–and for good reason. First, the only material required is paper (a win for any of us who need an activity with easy setup and easy cleanup). Second, it’s open-ended, so there is no right or wrong way to do it. Third, it really helps drive kids to think more creatively, think more critically, and learn how to listen to and work with others. And fourth (and finally), they love it. Kids absolutely love it.
So, grab some paper, set your timer, and enjoy the process.
Paper Tower STEAM Challenge
Challenge: Your task is to build a freestanding tower that is as tall as possible and is made only of paper.
Materials: 20 sheets of paper, 1 pair of scissors, 1 tape measure
The scissors and tape measure may not be used in your solution.
Time: You will have 3 minutes to discuss your strategy and 6 minutes to build your tower. Discuss and try different ways you can use the paper to create your tower.
- 10 points if your tower is successfully standing at end of the challenge
- 3 points for each inch of height of your tower
- Up to 20 points for the creativity of your tower
- Up to 20 points for how well your group worked together
Take it a step further…
After solving the challenge, take a few minutes to reflect on the experience. This helps children analyze what they have learned so that they can improve on things in the future. Ask them questions about their experience and process, such as:
- What was the hardest part of building the tower?
- In what ways did your team work well together? Are there other ways you could have improved your teamwork during the activity?
- If you could build the structure again, what could you have done to improve your design?
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