STEM Unit: Straw Structures for Teachers and Parents

Target audience: School students from grade 3 to 5 .


From its inception, the STEM curriculum of education has been practical, interesting and effective in nature. It focuses on helping students to learn science, mathematics, technology and engineering. These disciplines are combined into a comprehensive paradigm instead of being taught separately. In their classes, the students are taught how to model real-world challenges and situations. Some of the resources which are most commonly used in STEM education are straw structures. The students use the straws to construct models in the classroom. By doing so, they are able to understand a wide range of concepts from a practical perspective. Here is a comprehensive report outlining how Straw Structures are used to teach students from grade 4 to 5 in a STEM learning environment.

Science Concepts

Straw structures can be used to represent matter. In this concept, straws can be used to construct the basic form of an atom. They can be bound up around a central sphere so as to represent the proton, neutron and electron. The atoms can further be connected to each other by intersecting the electrons. In doing so, the students are able to create simple and complex materials.

The materials, which are created using the straws can be sorted such that the similar ones are grouped together. In this effort, the students can learn problem-solving skills. After that, the similar materials can be interconnected to create a structure. This structure can extend vertically or horizontally. As such, they can use their skills of reasoning and creativity to choose an orientation for their structure. Moreover, the instructor may specify the direction that the structure should face. Friction is exerted at the connection points so as to create the binding effect. Moreover, the vertical structures stay in place due to the force of gravity. The students can be encoured to tip the structures over so as to demonstrate this force.

Technology concepts

There are some risks, which emerge when dealing with straws. A prime example is getting poked in the eye. To avoid this, the STEM students should wear clear goggles. This protects their eyes and demonstrates safety. Straws come in various shapes and sizes. Moreover, they can be notched, cut and glued together to create shapes. During this exercise, the students can learn construction shapes such as arches, pyramids, cones, cubes, hexons and pentons among others. To make the exercise interesting, the students can be encoured to create any buildings, which they know.

By using 3D modeling software, the instructor can provide digital, visual representations of the expected shapes. In STEM technology classes, the grade 4 to 5 students can learn design processes using Straw Structures. Examples of these are prefabrication, modular construction and prototyping. This is accomplished using straw sections that are partially joined. Through this process, the students can learn about the historical role of technology in construction.

Engineering concepts

Structures can be accurately represented through scale models. By using measurement tools and ratios, the students can create scale models of popular structures. Examples of these are the Eiffel Tower or the London Eye. To achieve this, it is essential to use modeling software. There are many 3D digital tools, which can be utilized for this purpose. They can be presented to the students with the assistance of a laptop or a projector system.

Modern design is accomplished using technological devices. Examples of these are the 3D printer and the laser measurement tool. The students can be encoured to learn how these tools can interact with the straws. For example, they can join up the straws to create structural skeletons. After that, the skeletons can be filled in with material inside a 3D printer so as to create a 3D model. While using straw structures to learn engineering concepts, the students can learn about the forces, which are considered in structural engineering. Examples of these are gravity, tension, compression, flexure and shear. They can also be encoured to touch, tip over or twist their 3D models. After doing this, the students can make strategic observations and perform analyses. This helps them to understand engineering from a practical perspective.

Maths Concepts

The students can use rulers and laser measurement tools so as to learn the mathematical concept of measures. They can also use protractors to measure the angles between straw sections in their model structures. 3D shapes have depth and volume while 2D shapes do not. By using the straws, they can create 2D shape such as squares and triangles. They can also create 3D shapes such as cubes, pyramids and other regular polygons. After doing so, they can contrast between these shapes so as to learn the differences between 2D and 3D.

After gaining the basic understanding of shapes, the students can arrange straw shapes on a flat surface. By binding similar shapes together, they can create visible patterns. The STEM students can go ahead to measure as many lengths and angles as they can observe. After that, they can interpret this information and create reports describing their patterns. Some of the contents of these reports include the number systems used to represent the measurements. They can also indicate the fractions involved in these measurements. By doing so, they can deduce scale ratios.

Life Skills and Career Links Concepts

One of the most important skills in modern life is the ability to interpret art. In STEM, the learners can be taught how to identify various types of art expressions. Examples of these are cubism, fractal art, vorticism and minimalism among others. They can make examples of these art forms using their Straw Structures. Their creative processes can be guided using examples of visual art. These examples can be presented on digital panels such as the laptop screen or projector. In this way, they can use critical thinking to deduce the methodology implemented by the artist and represent it in their own creations.

Computers are a big part of art and design today. This is so much that there are even subcategories of art, which are purely digital in nature. They are created using Computer Aided Designing (CAD). The students can be exposed to the programs, which are used in performing this type of design. Furthermore, the grade 3 to 5 students can explore design using technological media, which they understand such as 3D cartoons, landscapes and buildings. While doing this, they can explain their favorite aspects of the digital material, which is presented.

After learning about the computer programs and techniques, which are used to create modern art expressions, the learners can be taught how to perform critical thinking. They can learn the fundamentals of this skill. This includes elements such as analysis, prediction, discrimination, research and data processing. The definitions of these elements can be fleshed out. After that, the students can proceed to use them for testing structural efficiency.

The students can refer to the 3D models and straw structures which they created using the straws to discover and learn about structural efficiency. This is essentially a ratio, which compares the load that is exerted on the structure in comparison to its weight. This ratio is very important when constructing large structures such as skyscrapers. Through the models that the students created, they can discover important facts about efficiency. For example, they can learn that prefabricated straw panels increase structural efficiency quite substantially. By relying on their critical thinking skills, they can compare construction from scratch with the use of prefabricated panels.

It is advisable to be charitable. This is especially so in terms of giving back to the less fortunate. One way through which STEM students can learn this virtue is by performing community service. This is where they perform specific jobs for free. Examples of opportunities for this type of service is serving at the local soup kitchen, donating clothing, spending time at the children’s homes to play with the kids. Donating blankets or even constructing houses for the less fortunate.

The grade 3 to 5 learners can complete these tasks with the assistance of their instructors. They can also perform them alongside non-profit organizations. In this process, it is always great to ensure that they perform the community service practically. In this way, they can exercise their critical thinking skills, polish up their communication and also learn how to create networks.

Taking part in community service activities can help them to learn and develop some life skills. Some examples of these skills include empathy, being assertive, interpersonal interaction and emotional coping. In addition to that, they can learn how to solve problems creatively and also how to mane their time.


By covering the subjects, skills, concepts and techniques that are described above, students in a STEM education curriculum can get a well-rounded education. They can learn and grow into responsible, highly skilled individuals that make a positive contribution to the society. The material indicated above is ideal for learners from grade 3 to 5. With the implementation of technology and ample assistance from the teachers, the students can create a firm foundation for their academic future!

Science concepts explained:

  • Matter
  • Material Science, Sorting
  • Structures and Efficiency
  • Problem Solving
  • Friction
  • Gravity

Technology concepts explained:

  • Safety
  • Construction Techniques
  • 3-D Modelling
  • Design Processes
  • Historical Perspectives

Engineering concepts explained:

  • Scale and Structure
  • Modelling
  • Technological Design
  • Structural Engineering
  • Observations
  • Analysis

Maths concepts explained:

  • Measures
  • 2D and 3D Shapes
  • Fractions
  • Regular Polygons
  • Measuring angles/lengths
  • Interpreting Data
  • Number System
  • Patterns

Life Skills and Career Links concepts explained:

  • Art Expressions
  • Design and Technology
  • Community Service
  • Critical Thinking
  • Computer Aided Designing
  • Assessment on testing efficiency of structures

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