What Makes Strong Bridges?
What do you do when your students are stuck inside on a cold afternoon? How about a fun STEM activity that doesn’t even feel like school? Exploring the purpose of bridges and how to construct strong bridges can turn into a fascinating science and engineering lesson for students of all ages. Check out this Homeschool Living for some cool ways to incorporate STEM topics into your homeschool.
This bridge-building engineering activity is a great introduction to the concept of designing and building strong bridges, without getting too technical–perfect for little hands! You can also use whatever materials you might have around your house–like plastic cups, egg cartons, paper clips, and popsicle sticks–making this an inexpensive and relatively low-prep activity.
Older students may compare and contrast the different types of bridges by examining their construction, general purposes, weaknesses, and more. They could prepare a chart similar to this one, or you could turn this research project into a more hands-on activity by assigning each student a type of bridge to research, construct, and demonstrate.
This paper bridge experiment requires no special materials and is a great way to emphasize the importance of the construction of the bridge, and to demonstrate that you do not get a stronger bridge simply by adding more materials to it (there’s a life lesson in there too!). This is also a great opportunity for students to practice hypothesizing and testing theories, and documenting experiment results.
A fun way to extend your study of bridges is to take advantage of a nice day and go on a bridge scavenger hunt in your neighborhood or community. Be sure to account for little bridges in your sidewalks as they cross creeks or drainage areas, as well as larger bridges over rivers, highways, etc. that you might drive over routinely.
If you want to create a full-blown field trip from this study, you’re in luck!
Check out this Homeschool Living for more information on the Virginia Natural Bridge.
If you live in northern Virginia, you may even consider checking out the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland–if you’re brave enough! Climbing to nearly 200 feet, this bridge has been ranked as one of the scariest bridges in America–though some find it great fun to drive over! Check out this video for a peek at an interesting and unusual job. These 22 bridges in Virginia are a varied lot of historical, architectural, modern, and even natural bridges. Find one–or more!–near you for some beautiful field trips to take over the spring and summer. This is a great way to help retain and put to use the information students have learned in their winter bridge study.