Kids’ STEM Workshops: Bridge Engineering!

This was the first Kids’ STEM Workshop we offered. We had a great attendance, and it was a wonderful way to kick off our series and let parents and kids know we would be doing this twice a month by offering an incredibly low cost program. And, what kid does not want to build the tallest tower in the room?

The skinny: This was a wonderful program, and it cost us $0 to offer it. The kids and parents enjoyed working together on something incredibly simple: build a tower out of nothing but newspaper and yarn that can hold the most weight possible.

Cost: $0. We used newspapers that were donated from our local print shop that they were going to recycle, and we had yarn and scissors available if kids wanted to use that to try their newspaper into rolls as part of their design. 

Resources: Amy Koester had an excellent post about a program her library offered on Bridge Science. Her post was so straightforward that I thought, “Hey, we can do this too!” I highly encourage you to check it out.

How it went: First, I brought all the kids together into our Storytime/Programming room. I told the kids that today they were going to be Engineers! We talked about what that word means, and what structures they knew about and interact with that engineers designed. Then, I told the kids that specifically they were going to be Bridge Engineers. I showed them Amy Koester’s Prezi presentation that helped introduce basic design concepts for bridges. (For some reason, the youtube video from Amy’s pretension on the Tacoma Brudge would not play. I showed my students this historic recording of the Tacoma Bridge Collapse instead: Tacoma Bridge Collapse).

After we were finished, I told the kids to go out into our main programming room. They would have newspaper and yarn as their materials. Nothing else. They had 20 minutes to build a bridge that would go over the opening of a cardboard box. I would place as many library books over their bridge as I could before it collapsed. It was up to them to come up with their own design.

Parents and kids worked together to come up with their designs. It was incredibly heartwarming to see parents and kids doing something together that required creative problem solving without knowing the best answer beforehand.

The strongest design of the night was a child who helped me balance over 120 books. Her bridge was still going strong, but the tower of books was so high I was worried it would fall and hurt someone!


Wonderful problem solving opportunity for families to work on together.

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