Toothpick Structures

Teacher.org Staff
Lesson Plan Team

The students will create a structure which can hold as much as possible using only toothpicks and glue.

Grade Level: 7th Grade

Subject: Science

Length of Time: Two 45-Minute Periods

Objectives & Outcomes

The students will be able use toothpicks, glue, and the concepts of structural design to build a structure to hold as much weight as possible.

Materials Needed

50 flat-sided toothpicks, regular glue, graph paper

Prepare ahead of time:  Out of toothpicks make one of each- triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon, and cube.  Assessment tool with rubrics to rate students’ work using a 1 to 5 scale. (weight held, design matches finished structure, working diligently, etc.) Ballots for student voting.

Procedure

Opening to Lesson

  • Once students are seated, ask the following question:  Why don’t bridges or buildings fall down?
  • Allow students to share their responses and write them on the board.
  • The concept to encourage the “design” of a building or bridge.

Body of Lesson

Modeling

  • Show the different shapes one can make with toothpicks.
  • Ask students what other shapes could be made?  Answers may include pyramids, octagons, etc.
  • Explain the directions to the students:  They must build a structure, at least two-toothpick lengths in height.  It will be tested to hold as much weight as possible.
  • Remind students the importance of designing the structure ahead of time.
  • Distribute assessment rubrics.  Explain how students will be rated.

Guided Practice

  • Distribute two sheets of graph paper to each student.
  • Instruct students to begin a design for the structure.  Give a time limit.  
  • When completed they will show it to the teacher in order to receive the supplies.
  • Distribute supplies to the student, toothpicks and glue
  • They will begin building the structure.
  • Give a maximum time limit to complete.
  • Once all structures are completed, allow students to vote for most unique, best design, etc.
  • Next, begin test each student’s structure by stacking weight on top.
  • Place one book (or other objects) on top, one at a time until structure collapses.
  • Record all results.

Independent Practice

 

  • Assign students a famous building or bridge to research.  How long it took to build, made from, etc.?  Have them focus on the design as well.

 

 

Closing

Announce the winners of the voting.  Discuss if best looking equals strongest structure, or if it matters what a building or bridge is made from, wood vs. steel, etc.

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