Back to School STEM with Fred the Worm Extension Activities

Hello darlings!  Amy here from That Teaching Spark and can I just say I am soooo excited that you found this page!  I am super pumped about these Back to School activities and I think they are going to rock your socks off!!

Most of you have heard of Save Fred, you know the cute little team building activity where kiddos have to put a gummy worm into a gummy ring with only using paperclips. If you are like, "Huhhhh????" don't worry I will explain further!!  Anyway, I want to shake the hand of the person who came up with this many moons ago!  There are now tons of different versions out there on the interwebs.  LOL!

Since my kiddos almost pass out from the excitement of this STEM Challenge, I decided to do what any good teacher would do- take advantage and milk that puppy for all it's worth!!  SOOOOO.... I created three more activities that require kiddos to help poor Fred the Worm!!

I call it The Misadventures of Fred! I tied in some Social Studies with this as well.  Students can follow Fred's Misadventures on a map of the US!  I included a backstory for Fred that explains that he wants to go see the world.  Students follow him as he makes his way across the United States on four misadventures.

Misadventure 1: Save Fred

Fred decided to try whitewater rafting on the Eagle River in Colorado and his raft tipped over!  His life vest slipped off and now Fred is stuck on top of the capsized raft!  He needs to gets his life vest because he can’t swim!  He’s a worm for goodness sake, not a fish!

Fred the Worm is on top of the cup and the life vest is under the cup.  Students can only use two paperclips to put the life vest onto Fred.  They cannot use their hands to touch anything but the paper clips!

Misadventure 2: Safe Landing for Fred

Fred caught another ride and headed southwest to Arizona.  He climbed to the top of a mountain to see the desert below. Now he is trapped on top of Superstition Mountain in Arizona and he needs to get down to the ground to his campsite. How on earth can he get down safety without going splat on the ground below? Watch out for cacti! 

Students must create a transportation device to bring Fred safety to the ground.  They can use any materials that you provide!

Misadventure 3: Bridge for Fred

Finally Fred started heading east to the Midwest.  Fred is now trying to cross the Mississippi River from Missouri to Illinois, but he can’t find a way across.  Build him a bridge as long as you possibly can so he can make it across the River!

Students get one sheet of paper and must build the longest chain link bridge that they can. 

Misadventure 4: Keep Fred Dry

Fred made it all the way to the Atlantic Ocean in Norfolk, Virginia! He wants to go in the ocean but he knows the salt water would hurt him.  He has to go all the way under the water in his makeshift submarine (a cup he found on the beach).  Humans shouldn’t litter!  

Students must submerge Fred in a cup without getting him wet!  This is tricky!

This is Challenging!

My students absolutely LOVE these STEM adventures!  Before we complete each challenge, we talk about teamwork and that everyone needs a chance to participate.  We also talk about frustration level.  These tasks are meant to be hard and frustrating!  They are challenging!  It isn't going to work with just ONE try! We have to use perseverance and rely on our teammates for help.  

These activities are perfect for the beginning of the year because it allows you to set the tone with growth mindset and teamwork.  You will be able to tell students' personalities VERY quickly with these challenges!

Misadventures Journal

If you want students to brainstorm and to evaluate their challenges, I have created a Misadventures of Fred Journal.  This also includes a materials list for you and helpful tips and tricks for helping your kiddos through each STEM challenge.  Remember, it is ok for your kiddos to fail!  They need to learn how to work through failure as well!  This year all but one of my groups was able to Save Fred.  It was an AWESOME learning experience in perseverance and learning though failure!  They weren't able to do it YET! 

Have a FANTASTIC year!  I'd love to see picture of your students completing these activities!  If you have an Instagram page or Facebook page, tag That Teaching Spark!


  1. I love this idea - what a great activity to spread out over the first week of school. I'm going to investigate this for my "Back to School" season in January. Unfortunately US geography isn't really relevant for my little Aussie school babies, but this gives me a lot to go with. Thanks!

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