Types of Bridges

Learn the 4 types of bridges and build models of them

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types of bridges worksheet

Technologyh Unit Study

MatchCard Science Types of Bridges Worksheet

Objective: Diagram 4 different types of Bridges.

MatchCard: Download below.

MatchCard Information Pieces describe the four different types of bridges and their main parts.

Print the Types of Bridges MatchCard

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This is MatchCard #1 of the Technology Unit Study. Find more information on MatchCard Science below.

Build Index Card Models of Different Bridges

Do This BEFORE Giving Students the MatchCard

Before looking at the Matchcard, the students can experiment with ways to build bridges to make them stronger. You will need:

4 Types of Bridges

To make these bridge models you will need:

Build a Beam Bridge

Beam  Bridge

Make two stacks of books the same size and close enough together that an index card can span the space between. There’s your beam bridge.

Beam  Bridge

Drive a car across the bridge. The index card may sag a bit, but the bridge should hold. What if you added a second car? It’s probably getting a bit shakey. I wouldn’t want to be in one of those cars if it was a real bridge.

So what would you do?

Trial and Error

Let the student(s) experiment a little with the index cards and see what ideas they have for making a stronger bridge. Than we will build the next three types.

Build an Arch Bridge

To make an arch bridge you may need to raise or lower the height of your bridge by changing the number of books.

Arch Bridge

Take another index card and bend it into an arch and set it under the beam of your beam bridge. The arch will take the weight and spread it out.

Arch Bridge

Now try driving your two cars on the bridge. You will notice that the index card is stronger.

Point out that bridges may have a series of arches. Some of the arches may be on top rather than underneath the beams, but they will learn about that coming up.

Build a Cantilever Bridge

Sometimes bridges have to span long distances, for instance when crossing a wide river.

Bridge Building

You can demonstrate this by taping two index cards together and increasing the space between your books.

Bridge Building

You know this isn’t going to hold your cars. We need to make some pillars for support. Take another index card and fold it in thirds. Tape the edge to make a triangular pier.

Make a total of four triangular piers. (Two for each side.)

Bridge Building

Slide a pier under each side of the middle of each index card. They are called central piers because they are in the middle of the section.

You may need to adjust the number of books to make the bridge the right height for your piers.

Cantilever Bridge Model

How well will the cantilever bridge work?

Cantilever Bridge Model

Build a Suspension Bridge

I always thought they were called suspension bridges because everyone in the car was in suspense when we crossed them. Not really. But if I had known they were called suspension bridges because the entire bridge and all those cars were being suspended from the upper beams I would have been in even more suspense.

Model Bridge Model

Take your four piers from the Cantilever Bridge (above)and use them as the towers of your Suspension Bridge. Put them on either side of the bridge, with the triangle pointing away from the center of the bridge.

You may want to tape the edges of your bridge to the books to help hold them while you finish building this bridge.

Model Bridge Building

Make snips in outside corner of the towers. This will help hold the string.

Model Bridge Building

Using a hole punch or very sharp pencil punch holes on each side of the card in the center.

Model Bridge Building

Use yarn, string, thread or tooth floss to create the cables for your suspension bridge. Cut two very long pieces. They should be long enough to go over the towers, past the books, and to the table top. Tape the strings to the table top on all four corners.

Make sure the string is threaded into the slits you cut into the edge of the towers.

Model Bridge Building

Cut 4 pieces about 12 inches long. You will end up trimming them down, but this gives you plent to work with.

Thread the string through the hole and tie it with two knots.

Model Bridge Building

It may help to have someone's assistance for this part. Bring the string up and loop it over the upper cable. Loop it five times around the cable, and then five times around itself. (This lashing is done instead of tying a knot. If you are using very slippery material, you may also need to tie a knot. Most materials will hold with the five loops and five lashes.

Suspension Bridge Model

The deck is now suspended by the cables.

Suspension Bridge

What is holding the weight of the car? What holds your weight when you drive across a suspension bridge?

Learn Facts About the 4 Types of Bridges

Beam Bridges

Beam Bridges

A beam bridge is the simplest form of bridge. The weight of the load is pushes straight down on the beam.

Piers are on either side of the beam and support the weight of the main beam.

Arch Bridge

Arch Bridge

Arches spread the weight more evenly allowing the beam to holder a greater amount of weight.

They are supported by abatements that are firmly anchored in the ground.

There may be a single arch or series of arches. The arches are usually below the main beam, but may also be above it.

Cantilever Bridge

Cantilever Bridge

The cantilever bridges are made of multiple sections in order to span large distances.

A central pier is located in the center of each section and supports the weight of that section.

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

Suspension bridges are able to span wide and high distances. They often are built over waterways so ships can sail underneath.

A cable is attached firmly to the ground beyond both of the end towers and goes over the towers.

The main deck is suspended from the cable.


A series of triangle trusses may be found on any of the types of bridges. These are triangular patterned rods that provide strength to the structure.

Bridge Projectsfor You< /h2>

Bridge Science Experiments

Bridge Building can be a great science fair project. Balsa wood strips are the perfect medium to use for a bridge experiment.

Here are some questions you might explore:

Bridge Poster

There are many awesome bridges and photos of bridges around the world. Consider making a poster of the different types of bridges. You will find many variations within each four of the types of bridges. How are they different and how are they the same?

Your Local Bridge Hunt

Every time you travel by car there's a good chance you go over a bridge! Do you know what type it is?

Now, rather than barely noticing it, see if you can identify which type of bridge you are on.

MatchCard Science

How To Use MatchCards


MatchCards make science concepts and corresponding vocabulary interactive. As students move the information pieces on the MatchCards they review the material they have already learned.

Download the FREE MatchCard Science Instructor's Guide and see how MatchCards can make building their science knowledge base fun.

Technology Unit Study

Technology Unit Study Cover

The technology unit study provides middle school studies with nine different lessons to introduce them to beginning engineering and technology. Even the non-techies can have fun with these non-intimidating and practical lessons.

12 Science Unit Studies

MatchCard Science Cover

Chemistry is only one of twelve complete unit studies for kids in 3rd to 8th grade.

Comprehensive objectives, hands-on projects, suggested science fair experiments, and the fun game-like MatchCards keep them interested in learning science. See all twelve MatchCard Science Unit Studies.

Ready To Use Resources

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