Ice Lantern


  • Large plastic cup (like a Solo cup)
  • Small plastic cup
  • Decorative pieces (pompoms, beads, pipe cleaners, tinsel, pine needle, pine cones, dried berries, etc.)
  • Food coloring
  • Tape
  • Water
  • A freezer or it needs to be below zero outside
  • Battery operated candle (or tea light)


The first step is to decide on your decorations. This is the engineering challenge! We found it was best to take pipe cleaners and twist them so they spiraled up on the inside of the large cup. These acted as your garland and as a place to put all your other baubles so they stayed in place.

Now carefully place pompoms and beads so they balance on the garland. This can be challenging and they will move once you add water, so don’t stress too much.

Pro Tip! If you wish to be more environmentally conscious, natural materials like pine needles, small pine cones, dried berries and even small rocks or crystals all worked beautifully as well. The key is that they need to be small.

Once you are happy with your decorations slide the small cup inside the large cup. Tape it into place so the top of the cups are flush with each other.

Add a few drops of food coloring to the water.

Carefully start to add water between the two cups so the water only goes into the larger cup. You will need to add some weight to the smaller cup to keep it in place and stop it popping up. We added a couple of stones to ours to keep it in place.

Fill until the water is only a couple of centimeters from the top. This is important.

Finally, place the lanterns in the freezer (or outdoors) for 5 hours or until completely frozen.

Take A Moment For Science

Once it is frozen take a moment to look at your creation. You should notice that despite the tape and the weights the smaller cup is higher and the ice is to the top of the large cup. This is due to water expanding as it freezes. This is a fantastic opportunity to see this in practice and discuss what happens when water changes states.

Revealing the Lanterns

Now carefully remove the inside plastic cup, then the outer plastic up. You may need to cut the cups to get them off. Just carefully snip the edge with some scissors and you should be able to peel them off.

For safety you can use battery operated candles, plus they won’t melt your lantern like a tea light.

Turn on your candle, set it outside in the wintery cold and enjoy the beauty of your creation!

Tip from

Shapes around you

Look for different geometric shapes and record them with a video camera. The aim of the exercise is to observe the environment and think about the meaning of geometric shapes in the environment and in visual communication. This exercise will help you to integrate videography into your mathematics teaching.

Use a video camera to film different shapes (circle, triangle, square). Look for shapes made by humans, animals and natural forces.

Each object to be filmed is first shown in extreme close-up. The camera is then moved away from the object until it is fully visible. Film 10 different objects.

The group’s task can be to look for either similar shapes or as many different shapes as possible. The pictures can also be used as photo-references: When viewing, the teacher can pause the picture with the pause button when there is a close-up of the object in the picture. Students can guess which object it is. The teacher then starts the video and the object is revealed.

Idea taken from Kamerakynäpakka: Matematiikka (

How Strong is Spaghetti?

How strong is spaghetti?  Challenge kids to invent a way to find out!


  • 1 package of spaghetti
  • 2 sheets of styrofoam
  • Books
  • Wooden blocks

We started our project by investigating how much weight spaghetti can hold when it’s vertical.  We quickly discovered that spaghetti is not very strong!  It bends very easily, and breaks easily.

I asked the boys if they thought multiple pieces of spaghetti could hold more weight, and possibly even hold up a book.  We tried sticking about 20 pieces of spaghetti into the styrofoam disk.

We decided to see if the spaghetti could hold up our large history book, and of course it could not…

We tried again with our test, and used LOTS of spaghetti.  I can’t remember how many pieces this was, but I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 200.  One of the challenges of balancing weight on top of spaghetti is that it bends and sways very easily!  We had good success putting another piece of styrofoam on top of the spaghetti, and then adding weight on top of that.

We were able to get 6 board books on top of the spaghetti!  Not a ton of weight, but hey – it’s spaghetti!

Then we devised a second test to investigate the strength of spaghetti when it is lying down horizontal.  Aidan built a small bridge out of blocks and laid the spaghetti across the bridge.  We were able to pull the spaghetti out of the styrofoam and use the same pieces.

Aidan put blocks on top of the spaghetti on each side to hold it in place.  Then he started adding weight in the middle.

Surprisingly, the spaghetti held a lot of weight!  I figured that it would be stronger this way than standing up vertically, but it was stronger than I thought it would be.

As Aidan added more weight to the center, he had to add more weight to the sides to keep the spaghetti in place.

What can we learn about the strength of materials from spaghetti?

This article from Scientific American explains what engineers are looking for when choosing the materials to design a bridge, and it has a neat experiment to test tension and compression in a bridge made out of spaghetti.  This is probably best for kids age 13+, but parents and teachers can also summarize the information for youngest students.  It’s not difficult to read, and I definitely learned something!

Challenge kids to invent their own way to test the strength of spaghetti!  Have fun investigating!

Thanks for the idea!

How strong is a piece of paper?

We are going to test the strength of paper, folded in differently  shaped columns, by piling books on top. This is very similar to how columns are used to support buildings and other structures.

Triangle, square and circle. Which paper is the strongest?

The Science Behind It

The cylinder can support the most books because it’s walls don’t have any edges. The force of the books cannot become concentrated in a particular area. The load is distributed evenly. In other words, all parts of the cylinder are sharing the load of the books.  All parts of the cylinder, therefore, contribute to it’s overall strength until, finally, it collapses.

The square and triangle deform more easily.  They shift the weight of the books to their edges and corners, which deforms their walls and leads to a quick collapse.  They are unable to carry weight only at their edges.

Have you noticed columns in buildings and other structures, like parking garages? What shape are the columns? Are they on the inside of the building/structure to serve their practical purpose of supporting beams or arches? Or are they exterior columns which lend support but also beauty to the structure?

Early architects in several ancient civilizations used columns in architecture including the ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans.

Challenge Instructions

  • Use regular copy paper, not card stock for this challenge.
  • Fold each paper into the three shapes and secure with tape.
  • Slowly pile books on top of each shape.

How many books can you pile on top of each shape? We did this experiment three times and got three different results, although the cylinder always bore the weight of three to four times the amount of books as the square or triangle.

© Copyright 2020

Parachute Challenge

Supplies Required:

  • A plastic bag or light material
  • Scissors
  • String
  • A small object to act as the weight, a little action figure would be perfect


Learn about air resistance while making an awesome parachute! Design one that can fall slowly to the ground before putting it to the
test, making modifications as you go. Hopefully your parachute will descend slowly to the ground, giving your weight a comfortable
landing. When you release the parachute, the weight pulls down on the strings and opens up a large surface area of material that
uses air resistance to slow it down. The larger the surface area, the more air resistance, and the slower the parachute will drop.

Cutting a small hole in the middle of the parachute will allow air to slowly pass through it rather than spilling out over one side, this
should help the parachute fall straighter.


  1. 1. Cut out a large square from your plastic bag or material.
  2. Trim the edges so it looks like an octagon (an eight sided shape).
  3. Cut a small hole near the edge of each side.
  4. Attach 8 pieces of string of the same length to each of the holes.
  5. Tie the pieces of string to the object you are using as a weight.
  6. Use a chair or find a high spot to drop your parachute and test how well it worked, remember that you want it to drop as slow as possible.

Additional Resources

Think About It! Do bigger parachutes work better? How would you modify the design to carry a heavier or lighter weight?

  1. How does a parachute work?
  2. Parachutes and the science of air resistance:

This experiment is found at


Do like this:

  1. Clean the two plastic bottles properly.
  2. Cut bottle No. 1 in half and put the top of the bottle away. It can be used for something else.
  3. Pour clean sand into the bottom of the bottle and pour about 2 cm of water on top.
  4. Cut about 3 cm off the bottom of bottle 2.
  5. Take the upper part of the bottle and put it in the first bottle.
  6. Pull a cotton string through it so that the string extends into the water.
  7. Put in some soil and plant a plant or sow some seeds.
  8. Take the bottom of the second bottle and turn upside down to put a lid on the ecosystem.
  9. Study how the plants grow in the artificial ecosystem.

I give a thanks to for the idea.

Birds – Mmm yum!

Tip from

What you need:

  • Birds
  • Paper plate, or paper and pencil to draw a plate
  • Learning plate (not necessary) or flora


Children will practice presenting and arguing their case. Find out which berries, fruits and seeds are found in a local area.


Divide the children into groups of three or four.

How to do it

  1. Draw a plate or use a ready-made plate.
  2. Fill it with the birds’ favourite dish.
    Give the children 15 minutes to find berries, seeds, fruit and more in the forest. Bring the finds to their plate and post what the group has found.
  3. Name the dish and argue why the birds like that particular dish.

Bonus is if the children can also figure out what is in front of them on their plate. Here it might be useful to have a learning board, or a flora with them, where the children can find out what plants they have found.


In the classroom, the children can then stick the dish on the plate and describe their dish and why it is the birds’ absolute favourite.

Build a Paper Rocket


  • Two pieces of paperBuilding paper rockets.
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Drinking straw
  • Ruler
  • Clear space in which to launch your ”rockets,” such as a large room, hallway or outdoor area with no wind
  • Measuring tape (optional)


  1. Cut one piece of paper into four smaller rectangles, by cutting it in half lengthwise and widthwise. This will allow you to make four rockets.
  2. Wrap one of the paper rectangles around a pencil to form a cylinder, with the long edge of the paper along the length of the pencil.
  3. Tape the cylinder closed so it does not unravel (but do not tape it to the pencil).
  4. Slide the cylinder off the pencil. Pinch one end of the cylinder shut and seal it with tape. (This is the ”front” end of your rocket.) Leave the other end open. This will be your first rocket, with no fins.
  5. With plenty of room in front of you—and no obstructions, such as furniture or people—prepare to launch your first rocket! Slide it over a drinking straw. Aim the straw forward, then blow into it as hard as you can. Watch your rocket as it flies.
    How far does it go? Does it fly straight or does it tumble in midair?
  6. Launch your rocket a few more times to see if it flies the same way. If you would like to record your rocket flight distances, be sure to launch it from the same place each time, and measure to the landing spot with a tape measure.
  7. Make another paper rocket following the previous steps. Remember to pinch one end and tape it shut.
  8. For this rocket, however, you will make fins. Cut out two right triangles (with a 90-degree angle in one corner) from the other piece of paper. The long sides of the triangles should be about eight centimeters. You will fold each triangle to make two fins, so you will have four fins total.
    Paper rocket.
  9. Draw a line that splits one triangle in half (from the 90-degree corner to the middle of the long side of the triangle).
  10. Draw two lines parallel to the first line (one on each side), about five millimeters away from it.
  11. Now, fold the triangle up along these two lines. The result should be two triangles sticking up in the air (the fins), with a flat part connecting them in between.
  12. Tape the flat part to the side of your cylinder, toward the open end (the base, or bottom, of your rocket).
  13. Repeat these steps for the other triangle, and tape it to your cylinder on the opposite side of the first one. The result should be four fins that form a ”+” shape when you look at the rocket from either end. If necessary, bend the fins so they are spaced out 90 degrees apart from one another.
  14. Slide the new rocket onto the drinking straw and launch it.
    How far does this rocket go? How does its flight compare with your first finless rocket? Does it go farther? Does it tumble or does it fly straight? Do you think fins help the stability of your rocket?
  15. Launch it a few more times. If you are measuring the flight distance of each rocket, use a tape measure and record how far it flew.

What Happened?

You should have seen that your finless rocket flew straight at first but quickly spiraled out of control. It might have tumbled through the air and fluttered to the ground, almost like a leaf falling from a tree. This is because the rocket did not have fins to keep it stable. If it started turning just a little bit, then it would start turning even more rapidly until it completely lost control. In contrast, your second rocket that had fins should have flown straight, and traveled much farther as a result. This is because the fins help keep the rocket stable, or pointed in the same direction. If the rocket turns a little bit, the fins help turn it back in the original direction.