Equipped with one piece of construction paper, glue and scissors, Thomas A. Edison Elementary School fourth graders were challenged to work in groups and create the longest paper chain. The STEM activity was part of Cynthia Chaves’ science classes, which stimulated their creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration skills.
Throughout the experience, the students brainstormed ideas and collaboratively devised their strategic approaches within their groups before they began cutting and folding the paper into strips and connecting each strip with glue.
“They deliberated over diverse cutting techniques, folding methods and approaches to connect the paper strips, stimulating their critical thinking and creativity,” Chaves said. “They also determined their roles and responsibilities during the building of the paper chain, instilling a sense of ownership in their collaborative efforts.”
Chaves said the fourth graders experimented with various cutting methods to maximize the length of their chains. When they encountered challenges, the students engaged in reflective exercises to identify what wasn’t working and apply their problem-solving skills to make the proper adjustments to their approach.
“Once the time for constructing ended, we compared the lengths of each chain side by side to see which chains were the longest,” she said. “We also took the time to debrief and discuss as a class, providing an opportunity for students to share their individual experiences, strategies, outcomes and insights into how they would approach this challenge differently if given the opportunity to do it again.”
Chaves said the STEM challenge helped the students gain insight into experimental thinking, refine their problem-solving skills and understand that combining their ideas and efforts can lead to better outcomes.
“In science, the ability to identify problems, devise solutions and adapt to challenges is crucial, and I believe this activity mirrors those problem-solving processes in an engaging and interactive way,” she said. “Throughout the challenge, they had to test different techniques and strategies to determine the most effective way to create a long paper chain, introducing them to the basics of experimental design. I hope they appreciated the value of creativity and innovation in overcoming challenges. In science, finding solutions to problems is often key to forming advancements.”