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A fun team building or leadership activity with kids is to follow the John Hopkins University guidelines for bridge building.

## Required Resources You’ll need:

  • Hot glue guns and hot glue sticks (older kids use the glue guns, or Elmers Glue but it takes longer to dry)
  • Uncooked spaghetti noodles (a package per team)
  • Some pictures of example bridges for the kids to see
  • Benches, chairs, tables, or other ways to form “gorges” to cross with a bridge, and to use for testing
  • pencil or pen for each person
  • paper for each team for design phase
  • paper for reflection activity
  • poster board or large paper with the following written on it

    ``` What did we learn?

    • What went well working as a team?
    • What did not go so well working as a team?
    • How could we do better next time to work as a team? ```

Introduction

Introduce the activity to the kids. Let them know that they will work as a team to build a “spaghetti bridge,” a lightweight bridge made of dried pasta that can hold weight. The bridge that holds the most weight without breaking will be successful.

Explain that this project requires teamwork: working as a group toward a common goal. Specifically:

  • Effective teams work together, drawing on the help of each person. Teams must work together as a whole instead of going in a bunch of different directions.
  • Team members should make a mindful effort to be honest, respectful, and listen to everyone’s point of view.
  • Team members participate in decision-making, and each member understands that the team leader might need to make the final decision if the team cannot come to a consensus agreement.

Process

This activity will use the PDCA cycle (plan, do, check, adjust).

Team Setup

  1. Form teams of 3-5 people each.
  2. Assign the leader for each team.
  3. Assign a location to each team with a gap to cross that is the same for all teams.
  4. Ask the team leaders to send team representatives to get their building resources (spaghetti, hot glue gun, glue sticks, etc.).
  5. Tell the team leaders their team has 15 minutes to plan, with no building allowed during planning.
  6. Tell the team leaders their team has 45 minutes to do, check, and adjust (make their bridge).

Plan (15 min)

The team has 15 minutes to organize and plan their bridge approach. During planning, no glue may be used.

Goal: Develop an overall design concept for your team’s bridge. The team should work together (collaborate) on a design, listening to each member’s best thinking and recommendations. Prior to beginning to build, the team should come to consensus on the design and the team leader should assign specific tasks to each team member. 1

The Team Leader may want to assign each team member a specific task that he/she is responsible for completing.

NOTE: The best truss designs consist of a series of triangles, which are stronger than squares; a triangle that points down is more stable than one that points up. Experiment with triangle shapes: M, W, V.1

Do

The team builds their bridge, working their plan.

NOTE: Depending on the age and experience of the kids involved, you may want to post these building hints

  1. Build supports for the bridge. Bundle several strands of pasta together in the shape of a tube. Apply glue to each strand as you go. Hold each bundle together with a rubber band until the glue dries.1
  2. Build the bridge deck. Two possible designs are: 1) a round bundle of unglued spaghetti (lack of glue allows the spaghetti to shift under the weight); or 2) several layers of spaghetti, with each layer consisting of pieces of spaghetti glued side by side to the width of the deck, and the resulting layers glued one atop another to form a thick stack—10 or more layers.1
  3. Design the trusses. Build the trusses to scale on a piece of graph paper. This will serve as a template for building the bridge.1
  4. Build the trusses. Cover the graph paper with a sheet of clear plastic wrap, allowing you to see your template as your build your bridge, without getting glue on the graph paper. Cut the spaghetti to fit the template; lay it out on the template and glue together using white glue or a hot glue gun.1
  5. Build the bridge. Glue all the components of the bridge together (supports, deck, and trusses).1

Check

The team checks their bridge as they go. If using an “quality inspector” role, then the team’s “inspector” checks the bridge throughout the building process.

  • Selected adults may offer tips and suggestions to teams, if needed.1
  • The kids must build, not the adults.

Adjust

The team works together to addresses changes that need to be made to the bridge to help it succeed.

Picture Time

Before testing (breaking) the bridges, take pictures with each team gathered around their bridge creation.

Judging

  1. Bring everyone together.
  2. Ask the first team’s representative (assigned by the team leader) to explain why they designed their bridge the way they did.
  3. Place the first team’s bridge across two tables or chairs. Gradually add weight to the bridge in small increments to determine how much weight it can hold before it breaks.1 This is exciting. Add weights slowly, not all at once.
  4. Announce the winning team.1

Reflection

  1. Ask the kids to each write five new concepts, ideas, or facts that they learned from the bridge building exercise and/or about working as a team.1 To help spark their thinking, show the following on a poster.

    ``` What did we learn?

    • What went well working as a team?
    • What did not go so well working as a team?
    • How could we do better next time to work as a team? ```
  2. Tell the kids the adults they can ask questions during the reflection exercise.
  3. Invite the kids to share their thoughts after cautioning them that comments need to be constructive and helpful, not hurtful or harsh.

Sources: Johnson and Johnson

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KW Lanham


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