Building a Bridge for 21 Elephants

I found this idea on the blog Playground Parkbench.  This architecture/engineering activity involves having students use Popsicle sticks, everyday recycled objects, plastic cups and some type of figurine or object to be the “elephant.”  I chose to take out the everyday recycled objects and only had Popsicle sticks.

The Story: Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince
After fourteen years of construction, the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, much to the delight of the sister cities it connected: Brooklyn and New York City.

Fireworks and top hats filled the air in celebration when the magnificent bridge opened in 1883. But some wondered just how much weight the new bridge could hold. Was it truly safe?

One man seized the opportunity to show people in Brooklyn, New York and the world that the Brooklyn Bridge was in fact strong enough to hold even the heaviest of passengers. P. T. Barnum, creator of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” would present a show too big for the Big Top and too wondrous to forget.

Product Details

The Activity: Students build their own Brooklyn Bridge and see how many elephants it can support.  Here is a description sheet for the activity.

Directions: You can also download a PDF version here.

Step 1: Make Your Bridge

  • Use only Popsicle sticks and plastic cups to create your bridge.
  • Only build on the provided bridge space paper.  You may not have your bridge go over the sheet.

Step 2: Rules

  • Use a normal speaking voice.
  • Your bridge must stand on its own.  You may not help it stand or lean it up against anything.
  • The animals must stand on top of the bridge without falling.
  • Your bridge may not go over the bridge building sheet at all.

Step 3: Test It!

  • Construct your bridge on the bridge building sheet.
  • Place the animals onto your bridge.  Count the animals as you put them on your bridge.
  • Record your name and number of animals on the 21 Elephant Bridge Log Sheet.


Some Observations:
Coming soon when I try this in April!