The activities below are a great way to give the students in your science class a brain break. They also make excellent team-building activities.
What are brain breaks?
Brain breaks are activities that can be done in the science classroom that gives students a break from the content. Often, they include a challenge and allow time for physical movement. Also, they are often completed in teams so they make excellent team-building activities.
When should brain breaks be used in the science classroom?
Often, brain breaks are used when students have been sitting for long periods of time. They are beneficial when students have been working for a long period of time on something that requires a lot of critical thinking.
For example, I like to use these types of activities after students have completed standardized testing. During testing, they are required to sit for long periods of time and cannot communicate with other students. When testing is done, these activities provide an excellent break.
Also, these activities are great team-building activities. So, it's also a good idea to use them at the start of the school year.
Brain Breaks and Engineering
Often, teachers mistake this type of activity for engineering activities. There is an engineering component to these activities. However, these activities do not meet the intent of Engineering as intended by the Next Generation Science Standards.
To meet the intent of these standards, engineering activities should relate directly to the content you are teaching. To learn more about this, check out this podcast episode. (Link coming soon!)
Examples of Science Brain Breaks
Here are some examples of brain breaks that you can use in your science classroom.
Spaghetti and Marshmallow Tower
This Activity is a slight twist on a classic. Most people have done this activity using only marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. I like to add in a solo cup and address labels. I put all of the materials in the cup before class and tell students that they are allowed to use ANYTHING that they were given.
Most students start with marshmallows and spaghetti. They are usually confused by the labels and very few realize that the solo cup is also something that they can use.
The address labels are a great way to provide tape without having to measure out tape or give students a whole roll. This is one of my favorite engineering activity tricks.
Their objective is to build the tallest tower. One year I even had a group of students use the paper at the back of the address labels to add a flag to the top of their tower. Genius!
Solo Cup Tower
I start the class period with this picture and tell students that all they are doing is building the tower.
Then I introduce the constraints.
- They may not touch the cups with their hands.
- Talking is not allowed.
- They have an extra tool, but they can only touch it with one hand.
Their special tool is a rubber band with 3 to 4 strings tied on.
If they break one of the rules, I run over like a crazy person and knock over their tower.
It takes them a few minutes, but they quickly learn to work together and build their tower.
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What do you do on testing days to give students a break?
I’m so glad to see these different challenges posted in one place! Our state testing starts next week.