The Three Little Pigs were actually engineers, and you can be one too! In the well-known folktale, three little pigs build houses out of straw, sticks, and brick while the Big Bad Wolf (who has his own version of this story) huffs, puffs and sometimes successfully blows down their homes.
At the Kingston Library we made this story into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) building challenge earlier this summer, and it was a blast! Creating a STEM challenge may seem difficult or intimidating, but this one is simple and something anyone can easily recreate.
For this challenge you just need building materials for the houses and a source of wind to try to “blow the house down!” You may already have everything you need on hand. For “straw” houses you can use actual straw or hay, drinking straws, or even pipe cleaners. For “stick” houses you can use real sticks, popsicles sticks, or toothpicks. To build houses made of “brick” you can use dominoes, wooden blocks, or Lego bricks. And to play the part of the Big Bad Wolf, a small fan or hair dryer works great! (You can make it look more villainous by adding some ears and eyes). But you can get creative and use any type of building material—marshmallows, crayons, newspaper….the possibilities are endless.
Now you are ready to put yourself in the shoes of the Little Pigs, wondering “How can I make a house that withstands the Big Bad Wolf?” To answer that question, you have to think like a scientist and an engineer. Design and construct a house, observe and analyze how it holds up under the “huffing and puffing,” and then use that information to re-create the house if it doesn’t successfully hold up. This trial and error process naturally follows the entire the scientific method: asking a question, making a hypothesis, testing it out, and continue experimenting, evaluating, and trying again to find the solution.
It’s hard to say which part is more fun, building the houses…or blowing them down! Either way, lots of learning and laughter happens, which is exactly how summer should be.