I introduced the idea of a “Bridge Challenge” my first grade classes. I started off the lesson reading the book, “Twenty One Elephants” by Phil Bildner. The story is based on a true story about the Brooklyn Bridge and how when it was built, people were reluctant to cross the bridge. Eventually the circus “puts on a show” and walks across 21 elephants. The bridge held the weight of the 21 elephants and people of Brooklyn eventually became less skeptical and began crossing the bridge.
After reading the book, the first graders received the challenge to make a bridge that could hold “21 elephants”. They were given 21 plastic bears (didn’t have elephants on hand), paper cups, and popsicle sticks. They began brainstorming and building and came up with some great bridges.
Later, they were able to “shop the makerspace” to look for other materials to change and improve their bridges. They loved it! And were very engaged during the activity.
We ended the class with a gallery walk of the different types of bridges. I also read another story about the same topic by a different author. “Twenty One Elephants And Still Standing” by April Jones Prince. It was great to be able to make an ELA connection to this maker activity.