Paper Bridges and Towers

A workshop that involves designing and building structures out of paper
Useful information
Kit List: 

-Old Newspapers
-Lots of plain A4 paper
-Sellotape/Masking Tape
-Gaps to create bridges across for each group e.g. a pair of tables


It is useful, but not necessary that the children have seen the breaking paper experiment earlier in the day
Divide the class into groups with approximately four children in each group.

Introductory activity:
Give each group a sheet of newspaper and instruct them to make a bridge across a 10-20cm gap that can take the weight of a small object e.g. a pair of scissors or a roll of sellotape. They aren't allowed to use either scissors or tape in making this bridge. Whenever a group successfully builds a bridge, cut their paper into two and take half of it away. This can be done four or five times before it becomes very difficult to continue. While the first couple of bridges may succeed quite easily, the children will need to realise that it is necessary to roll or fold the paper into a concertina shape to make further bridges. If some groups are struggling you could quickly demonstrate the difference in how easy it is to bend a sheet of paper compared to a tube. When no more progress is being made, stop the activity and congratulate the group who completed the most bridges quickest.

Main activity:
The children will all build either a tower or a bridge in their groups. For younger groups you can just give them the materials and let them build, potentially with a demonstrator counting how much material has been used. For older groups you may want to give them prices of materials e.g. 5p per sheet of paper, 2p per length of tape. If it seems that groups are struggling, perhaps they haven't realised that bending rolled up tubes is a mistake or their tower isn't as tall as another groups and has just fallen down, give them plenty of encouragement and advice.
There are several different challenges (listed below) you could give them, though groups will probably take at least an hour to build a tower and probably longer to build a bridge. Use a few related challenges so that when one group is clearly winning one area, other groups have something else to compete for.
-Tallest tower
-Tallest tower that with an object e.g. scissors attached near the top
-Most efficient tower (height divided by the cost or number of sheets used)
-Cheapest tower that meets certain height and weight carried requirements
-Longest spanning bridge
-Bridge of a certain minimum span that can take the most weight
-Most efficient bridge (weight taken or span divided by cost or sheets used)
-Cheapest bridge that meets weight carried and span requirements
-Best looking structure
-Race to reach certain height

Risk Assessment
Date risk assesment last checked: 
Sun, 29/12/2019
Risk assesment checked by: 
Käthe-Marie White
Date risk assesment double checked: 
Fri, 24/01/2020
Risk assesment double-checked by: 
Polly Hooton
Risk Assessment: 
Hazard Risk Affected Person(s) Likelihood Severity Overall Mitigation Likelihood Severity Overall
Scissors Risk of cuts. All 4 3 12 If any children are behaving in a dangerous manner with the scissors, take them off the child. Use safety scissors.
Watch the children remain sensible at all times.
Call a first aider in the event of an accident.
2 2 4
Heights Falling off tables when attempting to add parts to high towers All 4 3 12 Discourage children from climbing onto tables. Encourage them to place tower onto the floor so they can reach the top more easily. Consider bringing building of structures to a close if multiple groups have very tall structures.
Call first aider if required.
2 2 4
Towers/bridges Collapsing towers/bridges with weights could hit people. All 3 3 9 Avoid using excessively heavy weights for testing of structures. If you think children are in a dangerous position, ask them to move away.
Call first aider if required.
2 2 4
Paper Children could get paper cuts if handling lots of paper. All 4 2 8 Make sure kids are acting sensibly (e.g. not quickly grabbing supplies etc).
Call first aider if required.
2 2 4