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Building with inherently weak materials like paper quickly leads to a
close consideration of the structural elements and properties of materials.
There is an element of surprise, which increases students' interest in
the physics, when they discover just how strong they can make this seemingly
flimsy material. This activity is easily set up and gives students a chance
to explore the material as a lead-in to further building. Building bridges
emphasizes the concepts involved in carrying weight at a distance from
This activity provides a good opportunity to ask students to talk about
bridges and cantilevers that they know. There are many bridges around
to talk about. They range from monuments like the Golden Gate or Brooklyn
bridges to simple logs thrown across a creek. Examples of cantilevers
include balconies, awnings hanging in front of buildings, branches on
trees, or even our arms when we hold them out. Discussion of examples
like these invite your students to bring their own experience into the
understanding of building out.