5 Easy STEM Challenges You Can Do with Paper Plates
Do You Need Simple STEM Activities? Read on.
I am a huge fan of using inexpensive materials to explore STEM concepts. Paper plate STEM might not sound appealing at first, but it is seriously amazing. Not only can you easily fit several hundred in your tote bag, you don’t need a lot of additional materials to work through various STEM activities. Every single one of the STEM activities I list below avoids glue and food (two of the STEM materials I try to avoid because I can’t handle the mess).
Let’s get right into the fun part: the challenges!
Paper Plate STEM Tower
Create a tower with paper plates? If you have tried STEM challenges before, you may have created towers with simple objects like cups or blocks, or even difficult towers with pipe cleaners or playing cards. This is a whole new level of tower. Because of the plates’ shape, it makes for an interesting challenge. Some students will cut the plates to make rectangles so they can make challenges in a similar way to what you would do with index cards. What other ways might they create a tower? This is probably the easiest sounding challenge but the most difficult to execute. Which leads me to the next challenge, which is the opposite – it sounds impossible but is actually quite fun and simple to execute!
Longest Paper Plate STEM Transformation
This one is always so much fun! You may have done something similar before with a regular sheet of paper, but starting with a circle changes is up quite a bit. How long can you make one paper plate by cutting it in some way? The kids may need several plates because working it out on paper is a bit tough. They will likely change their design more than once and test it out (which is what we want!).
Airborne Paper Plate STEM
Kids seem to naturally want to throw things. Why not give them a guided task? Make a paper plate airplane, flying disc, or even a parachute! There are so many possibilities. I recommend doing this one in a gym or outdoors, and with all students launching their aircraft in the same direction…just to be safe.
Paper Plate STEM Roller Coaster
This challenge is way more challenging than it looks! In addition to the paper plates, students may also use cardboard tubes or index cards. Use a marble to test out the roller coaster. When the kids finally get theirs working, there is so much pride involved. Try it out!
Paper Plate STEM Basket Challenge
Can you use just ONE paper plate and a piece of paper and create a basket? This one requires a lot of planning and careful cutting. Try minimizing seams so there aren’t places for your items to “leak” out. Test with marbles, toys, or math manipulatives. Does it break or can it hold the items?
See a roller coaster and a parachute in action!
If you would like to dig deeper with these challenges, guide your students through the engineering design process with the full resource, which also includes several additional bonus challenges and a math extension activity.
or pin it for later: