August 19, 2016

Back to School STEM Challenge: Apples A-head

Use this back to school STEM challenge with 2nd - 8th graders as an ice-breaker to build your class community!

I've mentioned before, I hate ice-breakers so much!  I acknowledge they're hard to avoid, but I prefer finding interesting alternatives to interviewing you partner and reporting to the class.

One I think is a lot of fun for back-to-school is Apples A-head -- get-it? A-head! hahahaha! I love a punny title! It's a STEM challenge combined with a relay race. Because I spent most of my ten teaching years in 5th-6th grade (with a few stints in 2nd, 4th, and 7th), I like to incorporate as many subject areas into an activity as I can. Bang for the buck, baby!

Side note - this is why I chose my master's degree program in Design-Based Learning in which we were required to design a year-long curriculum centered around design challenges, incorporating cross-curricular instruction between design iterations and using student designs as the context for learning...whoa! that's a mouthful! That's whole story for another day! Back to our regularly-scheduled post!

As I was saying, in Apples A-head students work against a Criteria & Constraints List in partners/groups to design headwear to balance one or more apples on their heads (more apples = greater difficulty) which will be used to compete in a relay race. 

Does this sound like something right up your alley? I explain more in this video below:

This one is so much fun! Deceptively simple, with plenty of small tweaks you can make to increase/decrease difficulty -- and plenty of opportunity for cross-curricular connections! 

My favorite (or I should perhaps say least-hated!) ice breakers are the ones where your team has to work together to accomplish a creative or otherwise problem-solving task. This one fits the bill and then some! 

If you do this with your class, I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to hear about it and/or see pics! You can message me in the comments or email (in the page header, click on the envelope icon on the purple ribbon).

Want to see an example of student designs in action? Check out these blog posts from other teachers who ran the challenge in their classrooms:

Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6

Kathie at Tried & True Teaching Tools

Susie at The Panicked Teacher 

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