Build A Bridge!




Materials needed:

Book:  Iggy Peck, Architect, by Andrea Beaty

4 pieces of paper per group of 3-4 students (I used magazine pages.)

Tape (Enough for each group to get about 1 foot of tape.)

Small bathroom cups (for putting weights in).

Weights (I used floral pebbles, but you can use pennies, marbles, washers, etc.)

Small squares of cardboard (for a flat surface for the cup).

Blue construction paper (one sheet for each group, to act as a “river”).

Time needed:  30- 45 minutes

Engage:  Show the cover of Iggy Peck, Architect, by Andrea Beaty, and ask if the students think it looks familiar to another book we have read.  They will most likely recognize David Roberts’ wonderful illustrations, and may even notice Lila Greer, the second grade teacher of Rosie Revere, from our previous book, Rosie Revere, Engineer.

Tell them that we are about to learn about a boy who loves to build and tinker, and his name is Iggy Peck.  Iggy wants to be an architect.  Discuss what an architect does, and how an architect is a scientist and problem-solver, similar to an engineer.

Read the book, pausing to make predictions, share connections, and ideas.

Explore:  Students will now explore with bridge-building.  I did not show students any other pictures of bridges (besides the illustrations in the book).  I really wanted this to be an exercise in inquiry and exploring, so I didn’t want to shape any ideas or creativity they might have.

I was also working with 1st and 2nd grade students for my lessons, so I knew that my lesson would be one of many in which they could expand their knowledge of structures.  If you are working with older students, you may want to increase the time spent on the lesson and include a study of different types of bridges, the materials used, and the shapes involved in the design.

Divide students into groups of 3-4 and hand out the supplies, or make a table for them to come and pick up their own supplies.

1st Build:

Give them about 5-8 minutes to build a bridge that will span two desks (Use the blue construction paper as a guide on the floor for the width of the bridge.)  I told the kids that the paper was a river, and they had to build the bridge to cross the river.  We used the shortest width (around 8 inches) as the span.

I did not give any rules of building in this first build (except that the bridge had to span the river).  I really wanted to build confidence in the students, so that in the 2nd build, they would be willing to take a risk, and would not feel overwhelmed with the next challenge- which would be- no taping to the desk!

As they were using creativity and imagination (and sometimes other things on their desks, like iPads), to build their bridges and test them for strength by putting pebbles in the cup, I walked around praising them and taking pictures.

2nd Build:

As each group confidently finished their bridges, I gave them the next challenge:  They can use tape still, but NOT to tape the paper to the desks.  I encouraged them to use the tape to connect paper to paper, and somehow strengthen the paper so it wouldn’t just slip off the desks.

It might be difficult NOT to tell them how to build the bridge at this point, because they will be struggling with the flimsy paper, and you will want to see them succeed.  RESIST THE URGE!  I gave them hints like, “This paper seems flimsy if I just leave it flat, but is there a way that it might be made stronger?”


Some students twisted their paper, some folded, but none were able to make a bridge that didn’t collapse under the weight of the pebbles when they were placed on the bridge.

I didn’t worry about that, because after each group had 5-8 minutes to try the “no taping to the desk” challenge, I ended the lesson with a explanation that some shapes are much stronger than others, and help us to build strong bridges, buildings, and other structures.

I showed them how to roll up the magazine page and make a cylinder.  I lined four rolled up sheets next to each other, used tape to stick them together, and voila!  A bridge that can take the weight of all the pebbles we could pile in the cup!

The kids were amazed, and I told them that since they know that the cylinder is a strong building shape, we can use that knowledge in some future challenges, and build something pretty awesome out of just paper and tape!

Ideas for Elaborating Further (Optional):

An absolutely delightfully illustrated book that you can use to show different types of bridges is Bridges Are to Cross, by Philemon Sturges, and illustrated by Giles Laroche.

This website has easy to understand information to expand on bridge knowledge:

This video talks about another strong building shape, the triangle.  It also explains how bridges are so strong.

Posted by Kim Angell, Children’s Assistant