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Challenge Tasks: What They Are And How To Use Them

There's incredible value in giving your students challenging tasks. Home educators have a headache or need to take a sick day? Challenge tasks can be a way to provide yourself with the rest you need while giving your student something rigorous and engaging to do. Maybe your student is gifted and needs a bit more of a challenge during the regular learning time? Tasks like this can be a way for them to be very challenged. Maybe you're looking for a low-stress but highly engaging learning opportunity? Cue a challenging task!

Coming up with ideas and specific challenges can be difficult. You have to think of challenges, set the specifics, and do a bit of prep, even if it's minimal. Here are a few ideas to help give you a head start.

Egg Drop Challenge

Grade levels: 5+

Why it's a great idea: The egg drop challenge can be done independently or in small groups. Students don't need to be "on the same grade level," and the home educator doesn't need to have all the answers. In fact, not knowing what will work will actually help the students learn more through trial and error. Also, beyond the eggs, the "required list of materials" is relatively flexible. Cotton, tape, paper, boxes, string, even grass clippings.

How to prep ahead of time: The only thing you can't prepare is the eggs--you'll need some fresh uncooked eggs (or another small, fragile item) for this challenge. However, you can print out the directions (there are a few different ways to do this) for the challenge. Place the directions along with the materials in a shoebox or large bag and save it until the day you'll need it! For project extension, depending on the student's age you can add things like showing a space landing, reading Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, or making connections between the body and challenge.

Straw Rocket Challenge

Grade levels: 3+

Why it's a great idea: This challenge is easy, stress-free, and can be fully prepared for a random day in the future. There isn't a huge list of required materials. Plus, it's fun!

How to prep ahead of time: This is as simple as printing out the directions, collecting the non-perishable materials, and placing them to the side until needed. If you have a student who might need more structure, NASA has a step-by-step option. In addition, you can extend learning by watching and discussing rocket launches, reading up on basic rocket science, or studying the design of rockets.

Cooking without a stove

Grade levels: 6+

Why it's great: Students can actually solve this challenge in a few different ways. That means you have a lot of flexibility on what you require and what materials are needed.

How to prep ahead of time: First, be sure you remember food safety rules--your students shouldn't be challenged to cook things like raw meat. Decide what method you'd like your student to try, and provide them with the materials. Your student can make a solar-powered pizza hot box using an old satellite dish, solar visor, or a Pringles can. Extend the learning by doing more than just thinking about how solar ovens work. Challenge your student to think about how this technology could be applied on a larger scale to fill the needs of others.

Can you think of other challenge ideas that kids can conduct? What are they? Can they be prepared ahead of time?

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