Learning through play is always the way to go with kiddos! Whenever you can turn a lesson into a game, they’re more likely to pay attention and get that hands-on learning kids really need. That’s why I’m super excited to share today’s STEM catapult challenge from Ashley KZ of Forward with Fun!
Have you heard of the STEM catapult challenge? In this kid-friendly engineering activity, kids are tasked with creating a working catapult and then putting it to use.
Here’s what you’ll need for your STEM Catapult Challenge:
- Popsicle sticks
- Bottle cap of sorts
- Rubber bands
- Clips (optional)
- Plastic Spoons (optional)
Invite your child to create their own STEM Catapult:
My children love a good spread of crafting and tinkering materials. For my kids who are under 5 years old, I presented them with an example of a catapult and invited them to make their own.
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For children who are older, I recommend activating their background knowledge about catapults before building. Looking at pictures of catapults and discussing where they have seen them before can help kids brainstorm before building.
Then comes the best part: letting them experiment and learn by doing.
When tinkering, it’s important to build a growth mindset by sharing that with effort comes improvement. Don’t expect these STEM catapults to work right away! It takes time and experimentation to complete the challenge.
Step by Step STEM Catapult Building Guide:
- Bundle about 5 popsicle sticks with either a clip or rubber bands on both ends.
- Create another bundle of sticks and only bundle them on one side.
- Place the first bundle through the opening on the second bundle, separating one stick from the others. You should feel a spring back motion, when you press down on the stick that has been separated.
- To secure the two bundles of popsicle sticks together, use a rubber band to make an X shape around each side.
- Optional: choose either a bottle cap or a spoon to attach to the top of the lone stick to better hold objects to be catapulted in the STEM challenge.
Are you ready for the STEM Catapult Challenge?
Gather your catapults and get ready for launch.
Are you going to launch pom poms? Candy? Balls? Cereal? What small objects inspire your imagination to be catapulted?
Make sure to use adult supervision when launching items, and be wary of choking hazards with young children.
Before playing, set expectations about what is and isn’t allowed. Our big rule was “The catapult can only be aimed at the target!” aka “Don’t aim your catapult at your sister.”
For our target, I reused some cardboard from a delivery. I cut out holes of varying sizes and presented it to the kids. The larger the hole, the easier it will be to hit the target.
Kids can decorate and make their own targets as well, for even more creative opportunity.
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Additionally, you may choose to add numbers near each target to keep track of points in this carnival style challenge.
Where’s the learning in the STEM Catapult Challenge?
Not only is it fun to tinker and create, it’s also a powerful learning opportunity.
Here are the learning opportunities that arose for us as we built the STEM catapults:
–fine motor skills putting rubber bands around the popsicle sticks
–problem solving and spatial intelligence of planning out and creating the catapult
–learning about physics: force, cause and effect
As we played with the catapults other learning emerged:
– Discussion of weight. How far will a heavier object be catapulted compared to the lighter one?
– Adding up points and counting how many items hit the target areas
– Comparing and contrasting the strength of the two different catapults we had built
– Building growth mindset: it’s okay to miss the target, with practice come results
We seemed to have the best luck launching chocolate chips and marshmallows and after a while, the kids took off the spoon and bottle cap and discovered their catapults became MORE powerful without them! How will you build your catapult?
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This game was created by Ashley KZ of Forward With Fun. Her mission is to bring hands-on learning into your home through games and activities that inspire a love of learning. If you’d like to see more hands-on learning games for kids 3 and up, visit www.forwardwithfun.com