National Skyscraper Day is September 3rd, the birthday of Louis Henry Sullivan, the “father of skyscrapers.” To celebrate, we decided to explore all there is to know about skyscrapers, including building one of our own! This activity turns out to be more than just a creative building exercise. It involves teamwork, problem-solving, and some math skills. All the makings of a great STEM activity for kids!
To kick off our skyscraper building, we spent some time reading books from the library and Googling images and videos of skyscrapers. A few of the major skyscrapers we looked at were The Sears Tower, The Empire State Building, The Chrysler Building, The Transamerica Pyramid, and the Shanghai Tower. These buildings are awe-inspiring in themselves, but reading about how long it takes to build them and how much materials they require had my son blown away. We also watched several great videos using the search terms “skyscraper videos for kids.” It allowed my son to see all the different factors that engineers and architects must consider when building these multi-floor wonders.
After all of our research, my son set out to construct his own skyscraper. Here are the materials we used:
- Colored craft (popsicle) sticks
- Low heat glue gun and glue sticks
It was interesting to see the thought that went into creating this project. My son led the project, and I served as an extra set of hands. (Yay for one-on-one time!) We decided to construct multiple boxes that would serve as floors to stack on top of one another.
After the first box was constructed, it was apparent that it needed something more. Even with the hardened hot glue, it was flimsy and wobbly. My son deemed that we needed to add a brace to the side. Referring to the V-style seismic bracing we had seen in an earthquake retrofitting video; improvements were made.
After ten cubes were constructed with braces, we began assembling the skyscraper. Because the cubes were not perfectly symmetrical, it took some manipulating to get them to fit together without causing too much of a lean. There were some places where we had spaces where the pieces didn’t meet, so this was remedied by breaking a stick in half and inserting it to make up the difference.
Once all the cubes were stacked and glued, we then decided that the top of our tower needed something else to top it off. He decided that a four-sided apex complete with a red “light” to ward off planes should be added and the result is amazing.
The final product stands ten stories and 49’ tall and takes about two hours from start to finish! It was a great way to allow my son to take the lead in a project, assert himself, and think outside the box. After this, he deemed that he thought he wanted to be an architect.
To further this activity, here are some conversation questions to ask your children:
-What was an important factor in building your structure?
-If you build it over, what will you do differently?
-If each cube represents x-amount of floors, how many total floors will your structure have?
-What city will you build your structure in? Why?
-What name will you give your skyscraper? Why?
-Why do you think it’s important for kids to do activities like this?
Andie Jaye is a former preschool teacher turned stay-at-home mom of 3 kiddos. Her blog, Crayon Freckles , focuses on creative learning and play ideas, as well as parenting topics. Andie strives to be honest in her approach and experiences in parenting to let other moms know that they are not alone in their struggle. In her free time, she writes children’s books in hopes of publishing someday.