If you are like most teachers, you are always looking for ways to new engage your students. Active engagement leads to student learning. So, how can spark engagement in just 3 words?
The inclusion of engineering design challenges is becoming a part of many classrooms. Those who embrace the Maker Mindset carefully craft hands-on tasks that will get learners thinking, collaborating, and creating. Developing effective prompts for design challenges can take time and imagination. I've boiled it down to some 3-word challenges that you can take, adapt, and use in your classroom tomorrow!
Some are specific to engineering certain structures or adding components to an existing design. Other are more general and could be used for open-ended tasks of any kind.
- Hack a Toy
- Build a Bridge
- Drop an Egg
- Create a Game
- Re-purpose a Box
- Can it Float?
While these examples are pretty straight-forward, some prompts may require a little more explanation.
Team design challenges have become pretty popular for getting learner thinking critically and solving problems. These challenges can be done with students or adults with everyday materials.
- Two Concurrent Towers
- Give each team a bag of random materials. Something that can serve as a surface (Styrofoam cup, cardboard scrap), a structure (plastic fork, Popsicle stick) and a connector (pipe cleaners, straws) Given the materials provided, build two concurrent towers. You can create additional challenges within the challenge by informing teams that the towers can't use the same exact materials for each tower. Or at one point in the challenge, you could stop the groups and allow one member from each team to go and steal one item from another table, causing teams to rethink their plan.
- Ship a Chip
- As an alternative to the egg drop challenge, teams will need to carefully pack and ship one potato chip to another location with the goal of keeping the chip perfectly intact. Choose clean recyclable materials including bubble wrap, duct tape, tissue paper, plastic wrap, etc. If you need a partner school to ship you chip to--please contact me. We'd be happy to exchange in this challenge with you!
- Make it Move
- Again, using some general materials, challenge teams to create a vehicle that can roll across the floor. Possible materials include index cards, straws, paper clips, Lifesaver candy (or other wheel-like option). For those who need more explicit directions, check out PBS Kids .
If you are looking for a techy-themed challenge, try these 3-word challenges that require a few more materials.
- Create Wiggle Art
- Using a 3 volt motor, some AAA batteries and a battery pack with wires, teams can create a vibrating bot that, when markers are attached, can create some wiggle art. You'll also need a plastic cup or other plastic recyclables and some tape. Here's one version from Lemon Lime Adventures.
- Shed Some Light
- Using the bot you created in the prior challenge, add a feature using LED lights. How can you get your bot to shed some light adding a coin cell battery and pack?
If you are more of a bookworm, there are design challenges for you and your students too.
- A New Setting
- Reading a good book with your students? Have them consider how the story would be different if it was in a different setting? The wild, wild, west. Undersea. In a galaxy far, far away. In the jungle. Can your students write about it? SURE, but let's have them create it instead. Maker challenges can support creativity and collaboration while developing literacy skills, too!
- Design a Solution
- Every great story has a character with a problem that needs solved. Students can design a solution to help your favorite children's literature character. Clifford can't get to Emily Elizabeth fast enough, create a vehicle for him. Charlotte's Web is too sticky, design a new home for her. Ramona can't take another minute with Beezus, build her a secret clubhouse. The possibilities for story connections are endless! Check out my website STEAM Makers for more great ideas.
I'm sure there are tons of other 3-word challenges out there. Please share yours!