Cup Stacking Collaboration Challenge

Cup Stacking Challenge


  • Students will collaborate, problem solve, and persevere to accomplish each challenge

Materials – per group of 3-4 students

  • Task Cards – cut apart, laminate, and secure with a metal ring or brass brad
  • 6 cups
  • 1 rubber band
  • 4-6 pieces of string of equal length

This is one of the team building exercises I plan to use with my 6th graders during the first week of school. Many variations of this lesson can be found online. For this version, I created 6 different challenges for the students to tackle – each one increasing in difficulty. Not every group will get to complete all 6 challenges, and that is OK. The objective is to learn to work together as a team and not give up.

July 26, 2017 – One recommendation I have for this activity is placing the cups on the floor, when the cups fall off the table it makes it more difficult to complete the task in a timely manner.

Updated: Pictures September 2015

Working as a team to complete a task
Working as a team to complete a task
Trying to pick up a cup that fell over.
Trying to pick up a cup that fell over.
Almost done with Challenge #4!
Almost done with Challenge #4!

Discussion & Reflection

  1. Which challenge was the easiest for you group to complete? The most difficult? Why?
  2. Did your techniques change as you advanced to each challenge? Explain why or why not.
  3. Describe a technique that worked best within your group.
  4. Compare using two hands vs. one hand when holding the string to guide the cups. List advantages and disadvantages for each.
  5. Compare using verbal and nonverbal communication, what were some of the challenges your group faced?
  6. If you were to complete this activity again, what would your group do differently? What would you do the same?
  7. Why are collaboration and communication skills important characteristics for scientists to have?
  8. Did you feel like giving up at any point? How did you and your group deal with frustration?

27 thoughts on “Cup Stacking Collaboration Challenge

  1. Dr.F August 20, 2018 / 6:39 pm

    Thanks for this. I read it a while ago and stored the idea away for later. I finally used it today (first day of school) as a last minute activity for 9th grade advisory when we were otherwise supposed to have class meetings. (It’s great being a science teacher and having a stash of random stuff for last minute activities.) My students resisted the one hand behind your back and no verbal communication. ( But enjoyed watching them work. It definitely allowed me to gain some insight into personalities.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa Whitney September 9, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    This was the first activity I did with my 6th graders this year. It was an awesome activity! The students loved it and it was great for me to watch how they collaborated, dealt with frustration, and persevered! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laurie August 6, 2017 / 4:18 pm

    about how long does this activity take? thanks liz!


  4. April Thompson August 24, 2016 / 12:15 am

    I cannot open the task cards. Suggestion?


    • Liz LaRosa August 24, 2016 / 8:37 am

      The task cards are a pdf file, you will need Adobe to read the file. ~Liz


  5. Ami August 15, 2016 / 6:09 pm

    Does it matter what kind of cups are used?


    • Liz LaRosa August 15, 2016 / 7:14 pm

      Ami, I’ve seen it done with different kinds of cups, I just used cups I already had from when I taught Speed Stacks as a club. ~Liz


  6. Jessica August 9, 2016 / 7:17 pm

    Is there a link to the task cards?


    • Liz LaRosa August 9, 2016 / 9:25 pm

      Yes – it is a pdf file, I will highlight it to make it easier to find the link. ~ Liz


  7. Regina July 3, 2016 / 3:51 am

    Do you tie the string to the elastic before the students begin the activity?or Do the students have to come up with that idea?


    • Liz LaRosa July 3, 2016 / 3:26 pm

      For the activity, you don’t have to tie the strings to the rubber bands, they can just thread them through and hold both ends of the string. I did show them how to do that last year since it was the first time I used the activity. ~Liz


  8. Mary February 17, 2016 / 1:43 am

    When moving to the next challenge are the cups put in a certain formation ? Are they left in the previous challenge formation?


    • Liz LaRosa February 17, 2016 / 7:29 pm

      Mary – the cups are left in the formation just formed instead of starting over with all the cups stacked – Hope that helps! ~ Liz


  9. KA January 12, 2016 / 6:56 pm

    What size of rubber band did you use…does it need to be smaller than the diameter of the cup so it can be stretched?


    • Liz LaRosa January 15, 2016 / 4:08 am

      We used standard sized rubber bands, they were stretched to fit over the cups


  10. Meg August 29, 2015 / 1:09 pm

    THANK YOU for sharing this resource! It’s great!


    • Liz LaRosa August 29, 2015 / 2:28 pm

      If you use this lesson in your class, would love to hear how it went 🙂 Liz


  11. Candy1119 August 12, 2015 / 11:44 pm

    I absolutely love this!!!


  12. DeeAnn Moore August 3, 2015 / 4:45 pm

    Liz can you tell me how the string and rubber bands are used in this activity?


    • Liz LaRosa August 3, 2015 / 6:22 pm

      DeeAnn – Yes, of course, the students will tie the string to the rubber band, each student will control one, or two of the strings, using only the strings and rubber bands, they will move the cups into the formations shown on the cards. They can’t touch the cups with their hands at all, only the rubber band will pick up the cups. The goal is to work as a team and develop communication skills. ~Liz


    • Liz LaRosa August 3, 2015 / 6:28 pm

      I Just added an image to get a better feel for how the activity will look.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s