September 15, 2016

Halloween STEM Challenge: Bone Bridge

Halloween STEM Challenge: Bone Bridge is an engaging, collaborative, hands-on activity to keep students focused on learning before or after they say trick-or-treat!

The first big holiday of the school year is upon us! If you want to keep students engaged and working while visions of candy and costumes dance in their brains, you're going to need something special. Wouldn't you know it, I've got just the thing: Bone Bridge!

In this challenge, students work in partners/groups to design a bridge for length, strength, and/or capacity.

Halloween Ban?
If Halloween activities are taboo or forbidden in your classroom, not to worry! Connect this challenge with the skeletal system, vertebrates & invertebrates, bridges & forces, transportation... the list goes on and on! You can always find ways around a Halloween ban! 

Where Can I Find Out More?
Want to know more about materials, how to draw the line between capacity & strength, and more tips & tricks? See the video below for a ~4 minute walk-through of the challenge. However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.


Are There Others Like This?
But of course! This is the second of five Halloween challenges. Sept. 8 - Oct. 6. I'll be posting one Halloween STEM challenge video every Thursday to my YouTube channel

Until then, you'll find the Halloween bundle briefly described in this post

All challenges are available individually and in discounted bundles in my TpT store, as well:

Video Transcription

Yay, Halloween week two, Bone Bridge. The premise for this one is the students are going to build a bridge either for length, strength or capacity or any combination of those. Now I know some of you are not allowed to do Halloween activities, so to get around that you can study the skeletal system, you can study vertebrates versus invertebrates, you can look into bridges, forces, transportation. There are a lot of ways around this.

One thing that might actually be really cool is to have the students build bone bridge, then study vertebrates and invertebrates and have the students come up with a design that would be for an invertebrate bridge. Oh, I really like that. Let's take a quick look at the materials for this challenge and the STEM Challenge Cycle.

This is the stem challenge cycle you should follow for every challenge. I've defined each step in another video. You can click on the title now to see the cycle explained. Just a couple of quick notes for set up, you want to make sure you have the students build along the floor so that there's plenty of room for them to keep going, that they won't get cut off at the end of their desks, and you want to decide ahead of time if the goal for the challenge is the longest bridge or the strongest bridge, based on how much weight it can carry, or capacity. Or you might want some combination of those goals. You might be thinking what's the difference between capacity and weight for this challenge?

For example, this bridge is pretty strong because the planks are wooden. If you had a big bag of these pumpkin candies, you could probably easily line up along this entire bridge these pumpkin candies, but it might be actually capable of holding more weight. Another thing that's fun if they're doing capacity is the planks matter because you can see this one just barely holds the pumpkin, it's almost a little too widely spaced, but you could probably fit two across or maybe even more on the edges out here. Capacity can be a lot of fun to measure. If you do buy these pumpkin candies, hold on to them because when we start going over the Thanksgiving challenges, you're going to be able to use these again.

This is a really straight forward and fun challenge. You have what you need in order to conduct this on your own, but if you want more you might want to check out the resource, it has things like additional modifications to make the challenge more or less difficult, as well as cross-curricular connections and more fun stuff like that, so check it out.

This resource is going to save you oodles of time because it contains everything you need including modifications for use with second through eighth graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials of course, but the hard parts are done. You'll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards for grades two through eight, links to my stem challenge professional development videos to help you get the most from each challenge, and the Bones Bridge Materials list.

In Teacher Tips you'll find premise and set up, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the criteria and constraints list, measuring results and cross-curricular extension suggestions which you'll need if you need to prove this is not just a Halloween activity. You'll find an editable Criteria and Constraints list so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For Student Handouts there are two versions, four-page expanded room for response for younger students, and a two-page condensed space paper saver version for older students. Plus, there's a second set of handouts if you want students to test their bridges for length and the weight the bridges can hold.

You'll also find a set of group discussion questions. In the Extension Handouts you'll find math extension and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Halloween and Mega STEM challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video. Your students are going to love this one and so are you. Make sure you like and subscribe. Next week we're going to be going over challenge three, Creature Catcher. See you next time.


  1. I shared your ideas on my blog and used them in my STEAM classroom.

    1. Heather, thanks so much for sharing on your post! I will have to check out the book you suggested there. As you probably know, I'm big on incorporating content from different subject areas in my challenges, so it's cool to see different ideas on what people are using. I really enjoyed seeing the pics of your students' designs on your blog! Again, thanks for sharing! :)