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Lolly stick catapults

Put your pioneering skills to the test by creating a miniature catapult from lolly sticks. Ready, aim, fire!
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Lollipop sticks
  • Elastic bands
  • Sticky tack
  • Pom-poms
  • Plastic bottle caps

 

Before you begin

  • You can usually find lolly sticks with the craft supplies in high street shops, craft stores, or online.
  • Decide what you’ll fire – you could use pom-poms, or anything similarly small and soft. You could even use marshmallows!

What’s a catapult?

  1. The person leading the activity should ask if anyone knows what a catapult is, and what they’re used for. 
  2. The person leading the game should explain that people have used catapults for thousands of years. They can be small enough to hold in your hand, or a huge machine on wheels! In the past, catapults were often built out of wood tied together with rope – this is pioneering. Catapults can be used to hurl objects across a distance.

 

Make a catapult

  1. Everyone should split into pairs. The person leading the activity should give each pair eight lolly sticks and some elastic bands.
  2. Each pair should stack six lolly sticks on top of each other. They should secure each end of the stack with an elastic band. It’s really important that the elastic bands are tight enough to hold the bundle together, so a grown up might need to offer a helping hand. 
  3. Each pair should put one of their remaining sticks on top of the other. They should secure one end of the sticks with an elastic band. 
  4. Each pair should open the free end of the two lolly sticks, so the whole thing looks like a beak. 
  5. Each pair should push their bundle of six sticks inside the beak shape as far as it can go. It should look a bit like a wonky cross, where one of the lines is held open.
  6. Wind an elastic band around the point where the two bundles meet – the middle of the wonky cross shape. 
  7. One person in each pair should hold the catapult flat on the table, while the other person twangs the top of the double stick ‘beak’. This is the arm of the catapult, so it should twang freely. Pairs could test how well their catapult is working by trying to twang a pom-pom from the end of the arm. It might take a bit of practice!
  8. Everyone should adjust their elastic bands until they think their catapult has he maximum amount of spring. 
  9. Everyone should use sticky tack to attach a bottle lid to the end of their catapult arm. This will act as a handy bucket to hold the pom-poms.

Let the games begin!

  1. Each pair should take it in turns to practice using their catapult. They should put a pom-pom in the bottle lid bucket, push the arm down, and then release it to watch the pom-pom fly. 
  2. Everyone should test the catapults against each other. Who can make a pom-pom fly the furthest?

Reflection

This activity needed everyone to use their teamwork skills, as well as other practical skills. Which part of building the catapult did people find the trickiest? The elastic bands in this activity represented the ropes people use in bigger pioneering projects – they use the same skills that everyone used to make their catapults to make bigger things like tables or chairs from logs or poles and rope. What would’ve happened if people hadn’t used elastic bands, or hadn’t made sure they were tight? People’s catapults may have fallen apart, and they certainly wouldn’t have worked. Was it helpful to have a partner? When was it most helpful? People may have found it helpful during the tricky bits like attaching the elastic bands. How did everyone make sure both people in a pair did an even amount of constructing and testing? This was probably some people’s first ever pioneering project – well done!

Safety

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.