Chain Reaction (Trial project)

An engaging primary school STEM project for upper KS2 children that is easily adapted to suit any age group.

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The notion of ‘cause and effect’ is one that comes easily to most children; their own life experiences are likely to have provided many examples. Given a collection of simple toys, perhaps cars, ramp/tracks and dominoes, you might expect that even very young children will explore ways to make a car run quickly along the track to knock over dominoes that have been set up on end, so that these then fall over one by one.

Adding further components to the selection, it soon becomes apparent that it is possible to link more of these actions together - and the concept of a ‘mechanical chain reaction’ develops: the movement of one object leads to that of another and then another; limited by the number of components that are available and the skill of the creator to arrange these in such a way that sufficient energy from one component is passed to the next to enable that object to move.

The ‘Chain Reaction’ project provides children with the opportunity to: design, test and refine their own chain reaction ideas, utilising both D&T and simple engineering skills; explore the science of forces, simple machines and energy transfers, whilst also working scientifically; and many opportunities for further crosscurricular links (some of which will be explored within this resource).

The initial project has been successfully trialled in 8 schools in the PSTT Wessex region, with a number of these then participating in an interschools’ event to showcase and extend the ideas. This resource is intended as a starting point for others to explore the possibilities of using cheap, readily available resources to deliver age-appropriate STEM activity.

It also aims to support teachers with background science information and relevant context. The development of this resource continues.

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