This month I used this wonderful activity from Get Caught Engineering. This product is found at TPT for just $3; I purchased it during the back to school sale this year.
If you are interested in some simple to put together STEM ideas, check out this store; they have several free items.
We started the activity about a week ahead, because this one required students to gather outdoor materials. Rather than take them out during the school day I chose to give each of them a one gallon zip bag and have them gather their materials at home. The instructions were simple - gather materials you think birds could use to build their nest. They gathered dried grass, leaves, twigs, sticks, spanish moss . . . and filled up their bags.
When the day for our challenge came I put down newspaper at their desk and gave each pair of students some type of tray to build on. To mix things up, I used Class Dojo to generate random names and paired them up very differently :) One thing I really enjoyed about this was that the two boys that others seemed to think would not be very successful (you could tell by some eye rolling and body language) were be far the best engineers! Here is a picture of their completed nest:
The only thing I supplied was balls of string and yarn; they could cut off as much as they wanted. This nest was awesome - you can pick it up and it holds together. There are three small stones in it representing birds' eggs and they were completely secure.
Some other engineers came up with these variations:
We had a lot of fun with this challenge, and definitely a new appreciation for the engineering genius of birds! We followed up with a short video clip about birds' nests that showed different types of nests and talked about whether the males, females, or both did most of the nest building.