STEM Activity: Build a Pyramid and Learn about Shapes

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I recently made a pyramid in one of my workshops for kids and it was an absolute blast! The kids loved decorating the different parts and figuring out how to put everything together. I realized that it was such a great STEM activity to explore shapes and work on spatial awareness.

STEM activity pyramid shapes spatial awareness

It was also so much fun that I wanted to share it with you and give you a way to create teachable STEM moments at home. I will first give you the process of creating the pyramid and then provide you with an example of how you could introduce the STEM activity and guide it so that some STEM learning happens!

STEM Activity: How to Build a Pyramid

Building a pyramid is quite simple and you probably have all the materials you need at home!

Tools and Materials

Materials you will need:

  • Cardboard – we used an old cardboard box from a recent package I received from an online purchase, I’m sure you have some of those lying around 😉
  • Decoration materials – we stencilled some hieroglyphics on, but you can just decorate however you want. Paint, glitter, stickers, glue some colorful cutout papers, the options are endless

Tools you will need:

  • Scissors to cut the shapes
  • Tape to hold the pyramid together – we used painters tape because it is what I had lying around but you can use duct tape too. Regular cello tape might not hold the pyramid together so well but you can definitely try! The 3-year-olds enjoyed the tape moment and our pyramid ended up covered in pieces of tape too!
  • Ruler to measure
  • Pencil

That’s it! Pretty simple right?

The Preparation

To build a pyramid you are going to basically need a square base and 4 triangles. Here is an image so it’s clearer:

STEM activity pyramid shapes spatial awareness

I have provided the measurements we used but if you want to do your own, smaller or bigger here are the instructions:

  1. First figure out how wide and how tall you want your pyramid
  2. The width will be the measurement of your square base. Draw a square with this measurement
  3. For the triangles, the base will be the width of the pyramid and the height will be the one you chose. Draw the base first and then mark the middle point. From that point, draw a straight perpendicular line (forming a T) measuring the height of your pyramid. Connect the edges to make your triangle. Repeat 4 times

Decorating and putting everything together

We decorated the individual shapes before putting it together. It is easier to do it flat on the ground and it gave it that extra wow factor once you build it but you can do it whenever you want.

To put the pyramid together, lie it flat on the ground and create this shape (decorated-side down):

STEM activity pyramid shapes spatial awareness

Tape the edges of the square and the base of the triangles together. You can also add some paper to make a sturdier connection.

Now bring all the sides up and have someone hold the triangles together at the top while the other person tapes the sides together. And your pyramid is done! You can keep decorating it or put on some music and dance around it!

STEM Learning Guide

This is a great STEM activity if you are working on 3D figures and/or shapes. By drawing their attention to the shapes in the process of creating something.

Introducing the STEM Activity

First, you need to get your children interested and motivated about building a pyramid. Some kids might be excited just by the idea of building it but others might need some input beforehand. What you could do:

  • Show them photos or videos of pyramids and ask if they think you could build one together
  • Show them a cardboard box and a photo of a pyramid and ask them if they think you could transform the box into a pyramid together

Once they are excited and convinced they can build one you could ask some prep questions. Here are a few suggestions:

  • What shapes do you see in a pyramid? (For this it could be interesting to have a small prototype of the pyramid already made so they can look at it and touch it with their hands)
  • What tools do you think we need?
  • What materials could we use to build the pyramid?
  • Where should we start?

During the STEM Activity

Depending on how old your children are you can increase difficulty in the shape drawing part. Things you could do:

  • Draw a T and ask them how they would connect the edges to draw a triangle
  • Draw two parallel lines and ask them how they would connect edges to draw a square
  • Make just one line and ask them to draw the rest of the square (all sides should be the same)
  • Draw the base of the triangle and ask them to draw a triangle that has a specific height

Once all shapes are drawn, cut out and decorated you can ask them to arrange the pieces to construct the pyramid. Again, depending on age you could increase difficulty. Options:

  • Show them the figure it should form and they have to copy it
  • If you made a prototype, let them look at it and figure out how to arrange the pieces themselves. They could even deconstruct the prototype to see how to build it back up

Some follow up Questions for Spatial Awareness and to get their Brains going

  • If the base were a rectangle/triangle, what would we need to change?
  • What could we build with just squares?
  • Why is the pyramid shorter than the height of the triangle sides?

Bonus fun

To add some extra fun and cultural knowledge you could ask them what they think pyramids were used for and find out together. Bury some treasures inside before putting the pyramid together and seal it up for posterity! A follow up activity could be… how can we get our treasures back?!

Hope you enjoyed it! Let me know if you hid any treasures in a pyramid lately or if you have any questions.

For more information about STEM and how to transform your STEM activities at home, check out these posts:

Check out other fun STEM activities to sneak in some STEM learning:

Happy STEM learning!

STEM activity pyramid shapes spatial awareness

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