Rapunzel STEM

It’s been an amazing year of projects this year and I need to blog more about it. One of my favorite projects this year, by far, is the STEM project we just wrapped about.  Take simple machines, add fairy tales, and some Design Thinking to a second-grade class and their creativity runs wild. 

I started by giving students a car, bouncy ball, whiteboard, and a room of materials to build inclined planes. Students made observations of the car and ball on different inclined planes.  Then, I introduced Spheros so students could test out different speeds needed to get up the inclined planes. 


At our next meeting, students had read a version of Rapunzel we did a class retelling.  In small groups, students came up with a list of problems they felt Rapunzel had being stuck in, a tower.  Students were told they should imagine the witch and prince had stopped bringing her food. The amount of empathy students showed made me so proud. We came back together as a class and developed a list of all the problems the groups had brainstormed. 

Groups chose a one of the problems from the class list they thought they could solve.  Each group in a class could be solving a different problem.Students are familiar with the Engineering Design Process so we tied it into the Design Thinking Process which connects more to this project.



(Design Thinking image from: http://www.uvm.edu/~ekorsuns/design-thinking/)

As a group we crowdsourced a list of materials students would be able to use for their project. The only rule/limitation, it must be something Rapunzel could find in her tower.  Student teams brainstormed ideas and chose the groups best plan. Each group had to draw and label their plan before building.  Teachers in room facilitated with inspiring and thought provoking questions.








In the end, student groups presented their solutions. They ranged from ladders to ziplines to pulley systems. It was tons of a fun and a huge hit. One group who wanted to solve the problem of Rapunzel not getting enough exercise built an indoor obstacle course.


  1. What a fun project! I am always looking for ideas to support STEM in the elementary classroom. Thanks for sharing

  2. I love STEM and fairy tales but your project takes it to a whole new level with the design process. I love the way the students brainstormed the problems with living in a tower in the Empathy step.
    Thank you for sharing and for including the pictures so we can see the process in action!

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