Popsicle Stick Bridges

Name of Activity

Popsicle Stick Bridges




popsicle sticks, civil engineering, forces, sturdy structures



Grade Level

4, 5, 6


1 Hour Total

Brief Description

Give the students 50 popsicle sticks and a set amount of tape and ask them to design a bridge 2 feet long and as wide as their palm. Test the bridges to see how many books they can hold.

Lesson Objectives:

Introduce students to the qualities of sturdy structures and the engineering design process (encourage testing).

Materials Needed:

popsicle sticks, tape, books, desks/tables

Preparation and Set Up:

Print out enough worksheets for the class. Count out the number of popsicle sticks for each group and cut up the tape.


1. Outline the activity–the students must make a bridge to hold as many books as possible given limited materials and certain length requirements¬†(identify the problem). 2.¬†Have each student design a possible bridge (develop possible solutions). 3. Have the groups discuss their designs and come up with one design as a group (Select the Best Possible Solution). 4. Distribute the materials once the group has shown you they have a design. 5. Each group constructs a prototype. 6. Groups test by adding books and evaluates their bridge. 7. They continue to redesign and test. 8. Wrap up by discussing the most and least effective solutions each group tried.


To increase the difficulty, you may add or take away materials. For example, you can ask them to make the same length bridge with fewer popsicle sticks or also give each group other materials like paper and straws and require a longer bridge. In addition, limiting the amount of tape can force students to have to come up with more creative solutions.

Reference 1


Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable)

Introduction to Engineering/Sturdy Structures

2 comments on this post.
  1. Laura Coughlin:

    Freddy and I did a version of this activity with our fifth grade class, only we opened up the materials available so that the kids could use LEGO, straws, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and whatever else we could find in the supply closet. We wanted to incorporate a simple machines aspect, so we challenged the kids to turn the bridges into drawbridges using a pulley system. It went really well!

  2. Devyn Curley:

    Camille and I executed this lesson in Spring ’15 in Mrs. Murphy’s Argenziano 5ht grade classroom as a part of our Structural Engineering via Architectural History. After building teepees for nomadic tribes, the tribe (played by STOMPers) comes across a river, and brainstorm with the class on how to cross it, potentially multiple times. Instead of popsicle sticks and tape we used marshmallows and toothpicks. This forced the students to make smaller bridges and get more creative with the use of marshmallows. Additional keywords were support beam and cross beam. The variety of bridges constructed allowed for a lot of teaching moments that lead to the keywords above. Students were really excited about the story and the project, and were fighting over who could take the bridges home!

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