city skyline with sky scrapers

Building a Skyscraper of Newspapers

Students with a visual impairment explore and adapt materials to build a structure.


To provide a way for students with visual impairments to discover the way in which changing the shape of a material such as newspaper can create a stronger building material, then build a model of a skyscraper using the adapted material.

Background Information:

This activity can be carried out by an individual student or with teams of students. Vision is not required, as the properties of the newspaper can be explored tactually and kinesthetically. Some students may realize that rolling the newspaper into a tube will make it into a strong building material. Others may try folding or pleating the newspaper. Brainstorming with other students may lead to the optimal design for the newspaper and for the building.

This activity is based on a ZOOM Engineering project called the Super Golf Tower used in the Club ZOOM program from 2002.



With the student(s) explore the properties of a sheet of newspaper. One sheet by itself cannot stand up if placed on edge. Try various ways of shaping the paper, such as rolling it into a tube, twisting it, folding it, etc. Think about ways to design the building so that the “skyscraper” will not tip over and can be very tall.

Other concepts that can be incorporated into this lesson include creating scale models. The “skyscraper” could be the scale model of an actual tall building. If one inch equals one foot, how tall would the actual building be? If ¼ inch equals one foot how tall would the actual building be. Create a scale model of a person. How does the size of the person compare to the size of the building? This can be a particularly useful observation for students who have never seen a skyscraper!


  1. Change the shape of the newspaper to create building materials
  2. Build the “skyscraper”.
  3. Ensure that the building will stand up on its own. Does it need a specially designed base?
  4. How do you know when your building has reached its maximum height?
  5. Try limiting the construction to 10 sheets of paper and 3 feet of tape. How does that affect the height of the building?

NGSS Standards:

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution


This activity was adapted by Kate Fraser from the Club ZOOM Engineering Activity Guide.

collage of newspaper skyscraper models

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