Designing and constructing a tower requires an understanding of scale and the strength of the design. Toothpick towers can help your students attain this understanding. Assign toothpick tower projects to your students to cement the concepts in their minds and give them additional architectural knowledge.
Toothpicks and Peas
Assign your students the task of building a tower using only toothpicks and peas. Each tower should measure at least a foot tall. Build a model tower to demonstrate what you desire from the students. Connect two toothpicks with a pea in the center; your students will find it easier to work with chilled peas. Use as many or as few toothpicks as you desire, but assign a maximum number, such as 200 toothpicks. Make the top of the tower flat for weight testing. Place 1-lb. weights onto the platform at the top until the tower collapses. Assign points based on the amount of weight the tower holds. Give extra credit to the student who builds the strongest tower with the fewest toothpicks.
Build a stronger tower using glue to hold the toothpicks together. Assign only wood or white glue to construct the tower, as hot glue is too heavy and flexible, while super glue dries too quickly without bonding the toothpicks together. Assign a minimum height, and allow students to express their creativity when creating the structure. Emphasize that for extra strength, the toothpicks must overlap and be glued together. Give a half point for each additional pound of weight, and an extra five points to the student with the fewest toothpicks.
Toothpick Tower Images
For additional aesthetic appeal, have students design the exterior images for their tower as well as the interior structure. Have each student build two identical structures. Assign one tower to consist of bare toothpicks, and decorate the exterior surface of the other tower using various materials. Construct the walls of the tower with small pieces of brick or shaped clay, or print the image of the tower onto paper and fasten it to the tower with glue. Assign points for the amount of weight supported by the bare tower and the fewest toothpicks used. Also award extra points for the most aesthetically pleasing decorated tower.
Assign toothpick towers constructed with an air-drying clay. Allow students free reign with how they use the clay. Use the clay in balls between toothpicks, wrapped around the overlapping toothpicks or entirely supporting the toothpicks throughout the whole tower. Assign a minimum weight the tower must support. Award extra points for the fewest toothpicks used as well as the lightest tower and the tower that supports the most weight.