Materials for My #scichat Homies [Handouts]

Bad news, all y'all:  I don't have a ton of time to write tonight.  My 2.5 year old daughter — who is completely beautiful, by the way — is sick as can be, which means my wife and I are juggling work schedules.  That automatically puts me behind. 

The good news, though — particularly for my #scichat homies — is that I've got a few activities that I can share with you quickly!  Not sure if they'll be useful for everyone, but if you're a middle grades science teacher, my bad luck may just be your good luck.

Here they are:

Scientific Method Lab Handout 

Download Handout_LabReportOverview

One of the biggest challenges for sixth grade science teachers is introducing kids to a process for working through an experiment.  While kids are naturally curious and great at asking questions, they're not always great at answering their own questions systematically.

This is the handout that I use with my kids early in the school year to help them to learn about the kinds of steps that scientists take when experimenting.  I love how direct it is — and think it really works.



Spaghetti Tower Challenge

Download Handout_SpaghettiTowerChallenge

Late last year, Jonathan Martin wrote about a neat activity that the kids in his school were working on.  Essentially, groups of kids were given spaghetti and told to build a tower that could support a marshmallow.  Tallest tower wins.

It seemed to me to be a great way to get groups thinking and working together on an engineering type challenge that didn't require a ton of materials — so I whipped up this handout and turned my kids loose. 



The SUPERTUBE Challenge

Download Handout_PaperTowelTubeColumn

After watching my kids get completely geeked by the chance to design a spaghetti tower together, I decided that I needed to whip up another quick, materials-light design challenge. 

That's what this activity is.  Essentially, groups had to modify a paper towel tube to get it to hold up as many textbooks as possible.  The record on our team currently stands at 23. 


Anyway — hope these activities help someone out!  I gotta go and check on my kid.

Rock on,


4 thoughts on “Materials for My #scichat Homies [Handouts]

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Cassandra,
    I put all kinds of tubes of various sizes out on the table — paper towel tubes, toilet paper tubes, wrapping paper tubes — along with masking tape and Popsicle sticks. The only rule for the kids is that the only thing that can be touching the table is the base of ONE tube. Other than that, they can use whatever they want when building their modified tube.
    What happens is that kids create modified tubes using TONS of materials — theyll wrap six tubes around one another. Theyll tape Popsicle sticks all around the outside of their tubes. Theyll use 43 feet of masking tape.
    That, in turn, starts a ton of great conversations: Sure your modified tube worked, but it would be super expensive to build that way because you used so many materials. Can you reimagine your tube now with fewer materials? Can you figure out which of the 19 changes you made that mattered the most?
    Those conversations are where the real learning happens.
    Hope this helps,

  2. Penny

    Hey, I’m Penny, I’m 17 and in my senior year of high school. I know this is off-topic, but I saw your post on graphic novels and comic books awhile back and I was wondering if you would answer ten interview questions for a report I’m doing? It’d be really helpful for my report, because you seem to have a good idea of how to phrase your ideas. My email is Let me know if you are interested and if so where I should send/post the questions.

  3. crazedmummy

    Thanks for the kind sharing. In a time of stress you are so giving to think of us all. I am stealing the ideas now!

  4. Cassandra

    What do you put out on the supply table for the supertube challenge? It looks like masking tape is one item – are there limits to how much?

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