Inquiry: Using an Egg Drop Activity to Promote Critical Thinking and Analysis Skills

Seth Webster
Forest Lake ALC
200 SW 4th St
Forest Lake, MN 55025
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In this hands-on inquiry activity, students will design and construct an apparatus that will permit an egg to survive a nine foot fall. Students are given limited materials, so they must critically think about the design and improvise strategies during the building of the apparatus. After testing their apparatuses, students will analyze the designs and the designs of the other students in the class.

Learning Goals

Learning Goals
1. This activity is designed for students to continue to develop their critical thinking skills.
2. This activity involves students utilizing and improving their skills of design, development, and construction of an egg drop apparatus.
3. This activity uses student observation skills during the egg drop so they can analyze what designs do and do not work.

Key Concepts
1. Students will develop ideas, create blueprints, complete construction, and test their designs.
2. After testing their egg drops, students will critically analyze their own and others' designs.

Vocabulary Words:
Scientific method
Critical analysis

Context for Use

I use this activity in my high school astronomy class (although it could be used in any science course). It is a hands-on activity that requires 3 class periods of about 30 minutes each and 1 class period of 45 minutes. I use the activity while discussing the Apollo space missions and the scientific improvisation and problem solving skill that were required to bring the Apollo 13 astronauts back to Earth safely. The engineers were given a mission with limited materials from which to work. I give my students limited resources to accomplish their mission. I use the Apollo13 lead-in, but different lead-ins could be used in order to integrate this activity into any science course while teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Subject: Physics:Classical Mechanics:Gravity
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: High School (9-12)

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity is introduced in the context of the Apollo 13 mission. The engineers on Earth had to improvise new and untested procedures and equipment in order to get the Apollo 13 astronauts back safely to Earth, while using only the limited materials available to the astronauts.

I tell my student engineers in class that their mission is to safely return an egg to Earth after being dropped from the ceiling using only the limited resources that I give them. The rules for this assignment are as follows:
1. Only the materials that I give the students are allowed for use.
2. Only white glue or hot glue are allowed.
3. No materials can be directly glued to the eggs.
4. Not all materials have to be used.

The materials given to the students are not unchangeable when used in your own classroom. I usually scrounge around my room and give my students the following materials:
  • 1 plastic sandwich bag
  • 2 plastic straws
  • 10 popsicle sticks
  • 1-1.5 meters of string
  • 2 paper clips
  • 2 rubber bands
  • 2 cotton swabs
  • 2 pieces of computer paper
  • 2 toothpicks

The sequence of the activity is as follows. First the students need to think about their materials and how they are going to use them. While doing this, I have them make a blueprint/sketch of the design they are going to use. The introduction and these beginning activities will take about 30 minutes. The next two 30 minute blocks of time are used by the students to construct their egg drop apparatuses. Then we use the final 45 minute block of time to conduct the actual egg drops and analyze the results. I will begin having students complete an analysis worksheet in addition to the analysis discussion that we have after each participant completes their egg drops.

Analysis Worksheet (Microsoft Word 26kB Sep25 07)

Teaching Notes and Tips

- I give a materials list, but it is a fluid list and can be altered as needed.
- While students are working, make sure that they are making their apparatuses large enough to hold an egg.
- Stress the planning and design stage since students will not be given more materials. Once they cut their string, it is cut and they can't get a new piece of string.
- My room is on the third floor of our school. If student eggs survive the drop from the ceiling, I let them drop out the window. If it survives the three story drop, I give that group extra credit.
- I have completed this activity numerous times, but I am planning on placing more of an emphasis on the final analysis portion of the project. I want the students to use their analysis skills to discover the connection between design and performance.


This activity is worth 50 points and broken into three components:
  1. Blueprint/sketch is worth 10 points.
  2. The actual egg drop test is worth 30 points. If the egg survives the student earns 30 points. If the egg cracks or is broken it is worth 20 points.
  3. The analysis worksheet is worth 10 points. This is where the critical thinking and analysis skills will be assessed formally.


Grade 9-12 I. History and Nature of Science
B. 1 - Design and complete an experiment
Grade 9-12 II. Physical Science
D. 2 - Friction and gravity

References and Resources