File Card Bridges

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With two stacks of books and a few rolls of pennies, build two kinds of bridges--a beam span and an arch span--and see how much weight each of them can hold. Besides step-by-step instructions for how to build the file card bridges, this activity also gives a brief introduction to the different kinds of bridges, along with examples (i.e., a log across a river is a beam bridge; the Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge).

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 4 to 6 books (enough to make 2 stacks the same height)
  • A package of file cards
  • 300 to 400 pennies (loose or in rolls)
  • Scissors


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Architectural Engineering
    • Technology
      • Construction

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Murphy, Pat ; Klages, Ellen ; Shore, Linda


  • All rights reserved, The Exploratorium, 1996