Support Your Local Science Books:
An Open-ended, Problem-solving Activity
Developed by Chuck Downing after being inspired by Debbie Bereki of Fillmore High School
How do you support two (2) or more big, thick science books (like [insert book name])
2 cm off the top of your table?
your group can have access to (but do not necessarily have to use):
8.5 x 11" paper (1 sheet)
Scotch tape (4" strip)
Scissors (1 pair)
15 cm ruler (1)
Pencil or pen (1)
- Form groups as instructed by your teacher.
- Take one piece of smooth-edged notebook paper (SENBP). Title this paper "grade
sheet" and write down all your group member's names on it.
- You can try as many times as you like, but each attempt using new paper and tape
must be recorded by your teacher on your "grade sheet."
- The books must be 2 cm off the table top for long enough to be measured by the
- 2 cm is defined as 1.8-2.2 cm.
- The books must be level. All four corners must be within the height limitation.
- Successful support of 2 books with an "original plan" qualifies for 100% credit.
- Successful support of 2 books with a plan "borrowed" from another group qualifies
for 90% credit.
- Additional credit can be earned for additional books supported by an "original"
plan. (5% per book up to 150% maximum)
Answer only those questions assigned to you by your teacher.
- What was the maximum number of books supported by a group in your class?
- How many books did your design support?
- Compare your design to the "best in the class."
- How were the two designs similar?
- Why do you think that the "best in the class" design was the best?
* * * * * * * * * *
Notes to Teachers:
The "grade sheet" is a 1/2 sheet of used paper with the two students who worked
together's names on it.
I give out one piece of paper to each team at the beginning of the exercise.
I dispense the tape.
I mark "Attempt #" with some annotation each time a group comes to me for more paper
or tape. This is how I know if they end up "borrowing" another idea for supporting
I use scratch paper for this activity.
"Original" means that the group thought it up on their own, it does not mean unique.
After a group solves this problem, other groups will "borrow" their idea, but you
will be able to tell when that happens.
A creative group can support up to 30 Modern Biology ( 1977) with these materials.
Actually more could be supported, but the stack becomes unmanageable after 30 books,
unless the bindings are in better shape than ours are.