Between the boxes from online orders, rolls from toilet paper and paper towels, I’m guessing you might be swimming in an abundance of cardboard riches. Rather than tossing everything into the recycling or compost bins, see if you and your Girl Scout can’t find some crafty and STEM-y ways to reuse those materials. Read on for five fun activities that will turn your trash into treasure.
Marvel at the beauty of physics as you create your own marble run. Much like the mechanics of a roller coaster, a marble run works by converting potential energy (i.e., the marble at the beginning of the run just waiting to drop) into kinetic energy (the energy of an object in motion). Use boxes, tubes, and tape to create a simple marble run, then graduate to more and more complex runs like this amazing one built in Berlin.
Turn your living room (Or entire house if you’re feeling ambitious!) into a mini-golf course.
Use different-sized cardboard boxes. Cut the flaps off each box, then cut arches that are big enough for the golf balls to comfortably fit through. Because the boxes are quite light, I recommend “anchoring” the boxes in place by setting them in front of furniture, affixing them to the wall with painter’s tape, or putting a rolled-up towel around them.
No golf club? No problem! You can make it using (you guessed it) cardboard. Follow the simple instructions here.
If you’ve ever seen a submarine, you’ll likely have noticed its periscope, the device sticking out of it that lets people inside the submarine see what’s going on above the water. A periscope works by using two different mirrors placed at 45-degree angles to bounce light from one place to the other. Explore some fun facts about how mirrors work, then build your own periscope using cardboard tubes and an old CD. (Bonus activity—explain what a CD is to your Girl Scout!)
Cotton Ball Launcher
Take a deeper dive into the different types of potential energy by building a cotton ball launcher. Unlike the marble run, which relies on gravitational potential energy (that’s the energy stored in an object that’s lifted off the ground), rubber bands mostly store elastic potential energy (energy that comes from being stretched, squished, bent, or twisted). How does the elastic potential energy in the rubber band convert to kinetic energy after you pull and let go? How does that energy change depending on the width of the rubber hand and how much you stretch it?
When Girl Scouts Think Like an Engineer, they tackle hands-on challenges to learn how to innovate, design, and build to solve real-world problems. Task your girl to use the principles of design and structure to create a functional chair out of cardboard—one that will be strong enough to support her own weight! Use these instructions and this video, which walk you through the process if you’re not sure where to start.
Girl Scouts use resources wisely, and what better way to do that than turning your cardboard castaways into exciting experiments and projects. These ideas are just a starting point—we can’t wait to see what final creations you come up with. Share your creations with us!
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (And rescue dog, Neil!).