Planning & Carrying Out Investigations Activity #2: Marshmallow Catapult


Student Goal: Design and build a Popsicle stick catapult to launch mini-marshmallows across the room into a paper cup with accuracy.

Teacher Goal: Give students goal, materials, parameters, and opportunities to plan and carry out investigations without assistance.

Once students understand the parameters of the phenomenon, have them write a PLAN, which includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Introduction
  • Necessary materials
  • Step-by-step plan for catapult design
  • Description of the data collection method
  • Timeline of the investigation
  • Example of data collection strategy (tables, graphs, etc.)
  • How the results will be reported

Students then carry out the investigation.

Possible Materials:

  • Plastic spoons
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Rubber bands
  • Masking tape
  • Paper cups
  • Mini-marshmallows

Optional materials for differentiation:

  • Measuring tapes
  • Tablet to video-record launches
  • Calculator
  • Bulls-eye

Resources for Teachers:

Show the “Punkin Chunkin’” video included below from to give students an idea of what catapults looks like and to discuss failures, challenges, and perseverance:

Differentiating for Different Grade Bands:

  • Differentiating for Primary: no limitations on supplies (teacher discretion)
    • Possible focus: measurement; cause/effect
  • Differentiating for Intermediate: limit amount of rubber bands, tape, and Popsicle sticks
    • Possible focus: measurement; forces; percents; simple machines
  • Differentiating for Middle: supplies have prices; students have limitations on how much they can “spend” on materials
    • Possible focus: measurement; velocity; force; angles; potential and kinetic energy
  • Differentiating for High: supplies have prices; students have limitations on how much they can “spend” on materials; aesthetics; set distance
    • Possible focus: force; energy; physics; angles of trajectory

Related Crosscutting Concepts:

Related Disciplinary Core Ideas:

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