Several 1-2 hour sessions
bulletFinal session may take up to half a day.

bulletBundle poles and tape for each group.
bulletReserve a large space, like part of a playground or cafeteria, for both building and storing between sessions.

bulletFour or five per group

(per group)
bullet35 4-foot bamboo garden stakes
bulletOne roll of 3/4 -inch masking tape
bullet3-6 feet of duct tape
bulletMatte knives or scissors
bulletOptional: 25 weights to be shared by several groups (e.g., large washers or film canisters filled with sand)

Teacher Tips
bulletYou'll need a lot of space for construction and collapse.
bulletPictures help to record student efforts and make the deconstruction of their structures less dramatic.
bulletUse matte knives or scissors to take apart the structures.


Garden Pole--Building Out

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Building out with garden poles and tape provides students with the opportunity to experience the same basic physics and engineering phenomena as they encountered in smaller-scale activities such as Straws and Pins--Building Out. Students will have an entirely different experience of these phenomena due to the changes caused by the change of scale. Materials seem more flimsy, joints seem less secure. This is a good activity to do near the end of your structure and scale unit, and should be preceded by building on a smaller scale. As in the smaller scale building-out activities, students should be given the opportunity to talk about bridges and cantilever structures that they know.

Building on this scale provides a perfect opportunity to discuss the students' different experiences of building activities at different scales.

What It Is

Working with these materials may be very different from other building that they have done. The students need an initial session where they can familiarize themselves with these materials, as building out is particularly difficult on this scale. If this is your students' first use of garden poles and tape, the first session should aim at simply establishing familiarity with these materials. In this session, ask the students to build a self-standing structure using 35 bamboo garden poles and masking tape. Give them the following rules for construction:

  • The tape can only be wrapped twice around any given joint or stick.

  • When joining sticks in a straight line, the sticks may only be taped together at two points (at each of these points, the piece of tape may only be wrapped around twice).
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