# 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.

## Length of Time: Two 45-Minute Periods

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## 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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