Cup Tower Challenge

Lesson Instructions


Beanie Lizard Challenge-Kindergarten – 5th Grade
Standards and BenchmarksNGSS Practices1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)3. Planning and carrying out investigations4. Analyzing and interpreting data6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)NM Science Stnd. &BenchmarksStrnd I, Stnd. 1, K-4 Benchmark 1Use scientific methods to observe, collect, record, analyze, predict, interpret and determine reasonableness of data. Student Friendly TargetI can design, analyze and redesign a cup and paper tower to increase height, while supporting Beanie.
Focus QuestionHow could you reorganize the cups to build another layer?How many cups do you have to use on each layer?Do you have to use an equal number of cups for each layer?Does adding more paper make the layer stronger?Do you have to use paper in between every layer? VocabularyEngineering goaldesignanalyzeredesignheight
AccommodationsSevere behavior issues may need to work independently (try groups first).Students with low motor skills may need to be paired with a higher level peer to allow them to enact their ideas.High level students should be challenged to keep building towers with more cup levels (I remind them, I achieved 10 levels). AssessmentStudent should show continued progress in building their towers higher. Persistence in an ineffective design should result in a lower score.Student notebooks should be assessed using the standard engineering rubric.

1 2 3 4
Little or no detail. Only 1 trial explained. Includes some details, including labels. More than 1 idea shown. Includes labels, details, color etc. More than 1 idea, including failures shown. Multiple successes and failures shown, with superior use of detail, color, labels, etc.
ProcedureLaunch – Materials: Goal and Materials writeup, 1 seto   Introduce the challenge with the whole class seated on carpet by building a 3 tier tower by placing down 4 paper cups, covering them with a sheet of paper, putting down 4 more, adding a sheet of paper, etc. Place Beanie Lizard on top to show how the tower can support his weight. This challenge is measured in cup layers, so demonstrate how to count the layers of cups.o   Challenge students to create the tallest tower they can, using only these materials that can support Beanie. Instruct them they will raise their hands so you can bring the Lizard to them when they are done – they are not to get up.o   Have grades 2-5 add the following Goal and Materials to the next clean page of their notebooks.o     Goal: Build the tallest possible tower (most cup heights) that can support Beanie Lizard.o   Materials: 10 sheets of paper, 20 cupsExplore – Materials: Ziplocks with 10 papers, 20 cups (1 set per pair of students); Beanie Lizardo    Have students form groups of 3-4 students (if they were not good listeners during Launch assign the groups yourself).o   Pass out one bag of supplies per group. Students work within their group to build the tallest tower they can. When they think it is as tall as they can make it, they should raise their hands and you will balance Beanie Lizard on their tower (grades 4 & 5 may balance the lizard themselves).o   After a successful tower, challenge students to make the tower one more cup higher. After a failure, ask them how they can fix the problem. Repeat.Assess – Materials:Notebooks, Colored Pencils o   About 10-15 minutes before the end of class have students clean up and return to carpet with their notebooks. Students should spend the remainder of time documenting their successes and failures. Remind them to document their failures as this is often overlooked.o   About 1 minute before the end of class have them line up with their pencils and notebooks. These should be left in the bins/can by the door and the instructor puts them back on the shelf after class.
Anchor Chart used in guiding students in drawing in their journal. Anchor Chart used for Engineering Process
Supplies for each group: 20 cups, 10 construction paper squares Sample tower- note that layers don’t have to have the same number of cups.


  • Construction Paper, paper cups, bean bag toy

URL for External Curriculum

Lesson Duration

45 minutes




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Other/Alternative Standard(s)

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