ITEEA The Elementary STEM Journal, Vol. 23, Issue 3
PublisherInternational Technology and Engineering Educators Association, Reston
ReleasedMarch 1, 2019
The Elementary STEM Journal, Volume 23, Issue 3 - March, 2019

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STEM Children's Rhymes: STEM London Bridge

Activity - STEM Children's Rhymes

STEM London Bridge London Bridge - 101-lg.png
by Emily Yoshikawa Ruesch and Scott R. Bartholomew



London Bridge is falling down, 
Falling down, falling down, 
London Bridge is falling down, 
My fair lady.

Build it up with bricks and mortar, 
Bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar, 
Build it up with bricks and mortar, 
My fair lady.

Bricks and mortar will not stay, 
Will not stay, will not stay, 
Bricks and mortar will not stay, 
My fair lady.

London Bridge is falling down, 
Falling down, falling down, 
London Bridge is falling down, 
My fair lady.


This activity allows students to use a familiar children’s rhyme to learn and incorporate principles of integrated STEM. Students practice recognizing words and identifying a problem (we want the students to build a bridge that meets certain constraints).

This activity is designed to take approximately 90 minutes. The progression includes: reviewing the rhyme, completing a cut-out and fill-in activity, and producing a STEM portfolio. Once the students have worked through the portfolio, they will work to build a prototype of their solution. While prototyping, the students will use a span and a car in the classroom to test and improve their designs.

materialsLondon Bridge Portfolio-edited-pg.1-300-med.jpg

Span for bridge to go over (could be tables or blocks, one foot apart)

Hotwheels car

Handouts (cut-out/fill-in activity, STEM design portfolio packet)

Building materials (e.g., construction/tissue/printer paper, cardboard, pipe cleaners, straws, toothpicks, Styrofoam, tinfoil, etc.)

suggestions for adapting to older grades

Require bridges to meet more constraints or carry higher weights.

Require annotated drawing indicating where compression or tension may be put onto a bridge.


“London Bridge is Falling Down” is said to date back to the middle ages, or perhaps beyond.

The meaning of the song is what it says. It addresses the stability (or lack of stability) of the bridge. There are varying verses following the first verse that many know by heart. The intermediary verses all address suggestions (both realistic and fanciful) of how to fix the problem, along with reasons why those suggestions may fail.

When the rhyme’s lyrics were first written, its popularity grew immensely, especially in the UK and USA.

Source: Bridge Portfolio-edited-pg.2-300-med.jpg


London Bridge lesson plan

Level: Kindergarten

Duration: 1.5 hours


lesson objectives

K.CCSSI_ELA.RR.1. With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

K.CCSSI_ELA.RR.2. With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

K.CCSSI_ELA.RR.3. With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

K.CCSSI_ELA.CC.2. Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.


phase oneLondon Bridge Fill-In-300-med.jpg

Gather the class together and go over “London Bridge is Falling Down” together. Use the cutout sheets to allow the students to fill in the blanks.

Once you have said the children’s rhyme together, hand out the planning sheets and go over the key details of the rhyme.


identify the problem

We want to be able to build a bridge that won’t fall down. The bridge needs to span one foot and needs to be able to support a hotwheels car.


The students will participate in a design challenge where they have to design a bridge that meets specific criteria. There will be teacher sign offs so that students work through the design process.

On the worksheet, have the students list three different ideas that they could do to make a bridge. This could include rails, pillars, a strong road, etc. When they are done with this, have them get a teacher sign off.

Once the teacher has looked at the three ideas, have the students go look at materials. Once they know what materials are on the table, have the students list three things that they could use to build the bridge that meets those constraints.

Have the students pick their favorite idea and do a more detailed drawing of it. Once the drawing is complete, have the students find the teacher to explain their product. The teacher can then write down the description of their bridge.


build, improve, and share

Have the students build from their drawn designs. Allow the students to test the design using the span created and the hotwheels car. As they see what works and what needs improvement, encourage them to go back and improve and make further iterations on their design.

The students can then come together and, as a class, they can explain their designs, share what they chose, and discuss improvements or questions peers may have.

Correspondence concerning this manuscript should be addressed to Emily Yoshikawa Ruesch at

Note: The London Bridge Portfolio can be accessed at, and the London Bridge Fill-In can be accessed at


Emily Yoshikawa Ruesch is a Project Lead the Way teacher at the Weber Innovation Center. She currently teaches digital electronics, engineering design, and physics with technology. She can be reached at

Scott R. Bartholomew is an assistant professor of Engineering/Technology Teacher Education at Purdue University; West Lafayette, IN.