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By Cheryl McAndrew on

Science Museum & The Summer Reading Challenge 2022 – Stacking Shapes Library Outreach

Cheryl McAndrew, an Explainer at the Science Museum London, shares her experiences of delivering a science-based engineering workshop called Stacking Shapes for the Gadgeteers Summer Reading Challenge 2022.

With the Science Museum Group as the partner for the 2022 Summer Reading Challenge, all of our museums have been supporting the program in lots of different ways. We have run webinars, created resources and we have also run science and engineering themed workshops in libraries close to our museums.

running workshops in libraries

Cheryl and the ‘spaceship’ built at Kensington central library

The Science Museum Explainer team ran activities in six local libraries in the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster boroughs in London. The aim of the activities was to get children looking at the different shapes we use to make structures in the world around us. This included looking at the shapes in some everyday objects and buildings, such as an electricity pylon and a bridge.

The children were then given two simple shapes, (a square and triangle), made using sticks and elastic bands and asked to compare them to see which one was stronger. This was done by pressing and squashing the shapes to test the strength of the joints and sides.

After much deliberation and testing, the triangle came out on top and was deemed the stronger of the two shapes. The children and their adults were then asked to make as many triangles as they could in 20-25 minutes using the sticks and elastic bands provided. Once enough triangles were made, the shapes were stacked and combined using individual sticks and more elastic bands to make an innovative structure.

Some of the structures built includeda special bridge for a child affectionately nicknamed ‘Princess Charlotte’, a treehouse, a tent and a spaceship. 


getting everyone involved

Chi and the snack collection box

It was incredible to see children and adults of differing ages and backgrounds come together to share ideas and participate in such a simple activity. Overall, the structures built were not only innovative, but very strong and very well thought out. It was also interesting to see the different perspectives on what the final structure actually was – for example at the Kensington Central Library one participant saw a spaceship while another just saw a mess of sticks!

Another benefit of participating in this outreach project, was that it allowed us to interact and work with other members of the local community who may not normally visit the museum. All the staff at the libraries visited were fantastic and very friendly – encouraging both the participants and those delivering the workshops, which really added to the experience (one library even provided the Explainers with some really great snacks…the Wotsits were a personal favourite!)

My main take away from this outreach project, is that by working together and sharing ideas we can inspire one another and often create something even better than we once thought was possible!

I really hope everyone who participated in the workshop had a great time and I would love to be invited back next year to participate with another activity. Enjoy the rest of your summer and keep being curious!

try it for yourself

Why not try and build your own creative and innovative structure with resources that can be found around your home.  Please check out our learning activity pages:-  

Did you participate in the Gadgeteers Summer Reading Challenge or any of our Stacking Shapes Workshops? We would love to hear about your experience in the comment section below. 

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