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Grade Range
Kindergarden-2nd
Group Size
1-2 students
Active Time
30 minutes
Total Time
40 minutes
Area of Science
Mechanical Engineering
Key Concepts
Shape, weight, strength
Learning Objectives
  • Explain how a bridge's shape can make it stronger.
  • Perform tests to compare different bridge designs and determine which one can support more weight.
paper bridge lesson plan with pennies

Overview

Your students have probably walked or ridden over a bridge at some point in their lives. In this engineering activity they will design and make bridges out of folded pieces of paper, and test how much weight they can hold with pennies. How does the shape of a bridge affect its strength? Let your students explore and find out with this lesson!

This lesson can be expanded to a second lesson looking at how the material a bridge is made out of can change its strength; see second lesson for details.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • K-2-ETS1-2. Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
  • K-2-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Planning and Carrying out Investigations. Make observations (firsthand or from media) and/or measurements to collect data that can be used to make comparisons.

Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking. Use quantitative data to compare two alternative solutions to a problem.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Generate and/or compare multiple solutions to a problem.
ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution. Because there is always more than one possible solution to a problem, it is useful to compare and test designs.
Structure and Function. The shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their function(s).

Credits

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

This activity was inspired by Prof. Margot Vigeant of Bucknell University.
Special thanks to teachers Cynthia Burke and Chris Bell for helpful discussions about this activity.

Materials


materials for paper bridge lesson plan

For each group of students:

  • Sheets of printer or construction paper (10)
  • Stacks of books, or small boxes (2)
  • Pennies (about 30, more may be required for stronger designs)
  • Tape
  • Ruler

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Grade Range
Kindergarden-2nd
Group Size
1-2 students
Active Time
30 minutes
Total Time
40 minutes
Area of Science
Mechanical Engineering
Key Concepts
Shape, weight, strength
Learning Objectives
  • Explain how a bridge's shape can make it stronger.
  • Perform tests to compare different bridge designs and determine which one can support more weight.

Class Materials
Related Lessons