I taught sixth grade for loads of years. The end of the school year is pretty crazy. In an effort to dispel some of the craziness we had our classes build toothpick bridges. We’d completed our curriculum and were looking for something productive and motivating for them to be busy with – and to take some of the “end of year” business off of us. It was the best!
The kids formed construction companies, researched bridge design, drew bridge plans, were given start up “money”, purchased materials, worked within a budget, and ultimately build a load bearing bridge. We teachers sat back and watched the magic (or disaster) happen.
My favorite time occurred when kids would approach us with complaints, whining, or clarification of instructions (which had been clearly printed and reviewed for each company of kids). In they’d start and we’d whip out the stopwatch and say, “One moment, I need to time this consultation so I can charge you appropriately.” Their response, “What?! I have to pay for this?” Often this was followed by tears or small tantrums. Little by little as they saw their resources dwindle, they got smart and started working together to solve problems. We even saw companies bartering with one another for building materials and consultation.
All in all, it was a great experience for the kids. Not only were bridges built, but confidence and a sense of accomplishment was also part of the build.