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Material Magic    Mystery 5

Mystery 5 image

In this Mystery, students examine how large structures like houses are built from smaller pieces. In the activity, they design their own structures using an unconventional building material: paper!

Could you build a house out of paper?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 5)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 5)

DISCUSS:

What other materials could you use to build a house?

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Beginning Exploration (3 of 5)
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Beginning Exploration (4 of 5)

DISCUSS:

How could you change the properties of paper to make it better to build with? What would you do?

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Beginning Activity Prep
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Paper Towers

In this activity, each student will build two towers using 3" x 5" index cards and paper clips. First, students build tall towers. Then they take those towers apart and build towers strong enough to support a hardcover book.

Step 1: Get supplies

Each student will need:

  • ruler
  • scissors
  • 20 3" x 5" index cards
  • 16 standard size paper clips
  • a hardcover book (If you only have a few books available, students can share.)
  • Paper Towers worksheet

Step 2: Think ahead

Each student will need a flat, level area where they can build a tower without bumping into someone else. Desktops and tables are great. Floor space works as long as you have a hard surface. (We don’t recommend building towers on a carpet.)

Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Activity: Paper Towers
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Beginning Exploration (5 of 5)
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Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the Exploration & Activity you just completed.
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Activities

  • Paper Engineering: Fold Your Own Hat: Take your paper-folding skills to new heights…on your head! Follow these directions to make paper hats. Each time you fold the paper, you make it stiffer, thicker, and stronger.
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Watch, Talk, & Read: A House of Snow and Ice

In this video, an Inuit boy living in northern Canada learns how to build a traditional igloo from his father. (2:53, BBC)

  • Watch and discuss: Why do you think they used snow to build their shelter? Do you think it was a good idea for the boy to learn this skill? How would you feel about spending the night in an igloo?

  • When you’re done, read “A House of Snow and Ice” to find out more, and discuss. (Grades 2/3, Ohio State University)

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Video

Do you think you could build a house all by yourself?

  • Watch this man build his own log cabin in the woods. Lots of stacked-up logs make the sides of the house, mud fills the cracks in between, and fire-hardened planks cover the roof and floor. (4:17, My Self Reliance)
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Video & Slideshow

Meet world card-stacking champion Bryan Berg. Using only cards, with no glue or tape, Berg has built freestanding towers more than 25 feet tall. (That’s as tall as two giraffes standing on top of one another!)

  • Watch this slide show to see a few of Berg’s creations. Then check out this video to learn [one of his card-stacking secrets] and try it for yourself. (1:16, Guinness World Records)
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Spot-the-parts Challenge

Some artists use old junk to make their art. Can you figure out what bits of junk an artist used to make these scrap-metal cats ? Search online for “found art” to see other art made from bits and pieces.

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