Academic Obstacle Course



Most of my posts are book reviews, though I hope to soon add some author interviews.  Anyway, this post is an activity I wanted to share. I saw a question on the National Science Teachers’ Association blog asking for ideas for the end of school.  Years ago the middle school where I taught put on a school-wide Academic Olympics.  It was amazing!  Different departments came up with their activities.  They were loosely based on Physics Olympics activities.

ACADEMIC OBSTACLE COURSE:  Students go through an obstacle course.  At the end of each event they answer academic questions.  (PE/any discipline)

WRITE-IT, DO-IT:  One group puts together a group of Lego blocks, and writes down the directions for how they assembled their structure.  Another group (separated by a screen or in another room) puts the object together by the first group’s directions.  Then they ask the first group if they did it correctly.  (Following directions/writing directions)  A math variation of this one for one group of students to use a meter stick and compass  and record directions to a given location (measure the distance in meters, and give compass directions).  Another group follows the directions to find the location.

PAPER TOWER:  Students are given two sheets of typing paper, 20 cm of scotch tape, a ruler, scissors, and any other materials you want them to have.  They are asked to build the tallest tower possible in 15 minutes.  You may require that it be free-standing for 10 seconds, and not be taped to the table.  The tower that is the tallest and stands the longest wins. (Problem solving)

EGG DROP:  Imagine that you are an employee and must package a very fragile item—an egg.  It will be dropped _____feet (whatever height you choose to use) from a drone, and must survive the fall.  Students work in groups to design and construct a box to protect the egg using cardboard, and whatever kind of packaging you have available (paper, peanuts, bubble wrap, etc.)—just make sure each team has the same materials.  You may add a math component here by “charging” the students for the materials they use (the best packaging at the least cost).   (Problem solving/math)

NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT:  Select various items in the area you plan to use for the hunt and make a list for your children/students to find.  This is a great exploration activity to use as an introduction to a lesson/unit on insects, leaves, flowers, rocks, or environmental science.  For younger children be sure to include a picture (from clip art).  For older children you might provide identification books for birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects or plants that they observe in their quest.

Here are some links for more ideas: This site has rules for each event—these can be modified to suit your needs. Be sure to click on various archived events on the left hand side of the page for more ideas. Click on the rule book for this year and past years for more ideas.