Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Exploring Bridges with the Three Billy Goats Gruff

IMG_8484(2)We began with The Three Billy Goats Gruff, illustrated by Janet Stevens.  Check out the eldest of the Gruff brothers, one of the hippest, toughest brothers I’ve seen in a picture book!

IMG_8487We tapped the “trip-trap” sound of the goats hooves on the bridge, getting louder as the brothers grow in size, finally hitting the floor to make the loudest “trip-trap” sounds with the biggest brother. The children enjoyed repeating the sounds when we acted the story out after reading the book.

Next I read part of Ken Robbins Bridges (Dial, 1991), a lovely nonfiction picture book with evocative hand-colored photographs and short and very informative explanations for why bridges are built different ways. The book includes London’s famous Tower Bridge, which features a drawbridge (bascule) that goves up to allow boats to pass underneath.  We watched a simple animation of a drawbridge, and then built our own drawbridges out of cereal boxes. It is a fairly simple project, but cutting cardboard, punching holes, and measuring the yarn required adult assistance.




It was great to see the interactions taking place — lots of scaffolding here, with parents guiding little hands to thread the yarn through, having them help measure the length, etc. And when it’s over, pull the yarn to lift the bridge and put it over your shoulder to carry home. One child used his portable bridge to carry a library book safely home!

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Marshmallow Bridges and Building Fun!

STEM Storytime recently focused bridges, featuring Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (Simon & Schuster, 2004)

which tells the story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge from a little girl’s point of view. Her father, family . . . indeed, everyone she knows, feels the bridge is unsafe. That is, until master showman P.T. Barnum parades his 21 elephants across as testimony to its stability.

We then learned about different kinds of bridges, like-beam, arch, suspension, and truss, and talked about what shape is most stable (the triangle), before beginning to build with marshmallows and toothpicks.


 The materials are basic, but open the door to so many possibilities!

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If you’re looking for an easy, open-ended activity for the kids, marshmallow building is a sure-fire hit!

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