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Under Pressure

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Under Pressure

In this simple activity, learners discover how a mere piece of paper can be used to hold up the weight of a heavy book. Learners are encouraged to modify their materials, using the steps of the design process, to explore how such modification changes the amount of pressure paper can withstand. This inexpensive activity is great used with engineering or architecture units.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • A few sheets of paper
  • Heavy book (e.g., a phone book, textbook, or binder)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Tape


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Architectural Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • WGBH

Source Collection:

  • FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman


  • All Rights Reserved, WGBH Educational Foundation, ©2007

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0610406
  • Public television viewers
  • Arby's
  • Greendog


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