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Looking for a fun Christmas or winter activity that incorporates science, technology, engineering, and/or math? Christmas-Winter STEM / STEAM Challenges are the perfect activities because they engage your students in brain-busting work disguised as fun!
The basic premise:
Working against a criteria/constraints list individually or in partners, students will design and build a way to safely “mail” two candy canes in one paper bag package without breakage. (Note: cookies can be substituted for candy canes.)
Note: This is the printable version. If you are in a 1:1 / paperless classroom, you will want to check out the digital option for use with GOOGLE SLIDES (TM) instead.
If you have questions about which version is right for you, please feel free to leave me a question using the product Q&A below.
NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8
- Links to my 5-part video series on getting started with STEM challenges
- Materials and timing
- Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
- Measuring results
- Universal STEM Challenge Notes & How to Use Student Handouts Post-design extension activities list
- Link to a video walk-through of the challenge
- Criteria & Constraints List (color and black & white; editable version provided)
- Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) (editable in color and black & white)
- Discussion Questions (editable in color and B&W)
- Shipping research activity (editable)
- Physical vs. Chemical changes notes & activity (editable; answer key provided)
- Process Flow Map
- Math Extension
This is one of five Winter / Christmas STEM Challenges. They can be purchased in a bundle at a 30% discount:
This resource is also available in the STEM CHALLENGE YEAR-ROUND MEGA-BUNDLE at an even greater discount!
Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:
(Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified.)
– Candy canes (2)
• Cookies can be substituted for candy canes
– Paper bag
– Pipe cleaners (5 – 10)
– Popsicle/craft sticks (5 – 10)
– Tape (12 in.)
– Scale (to measure weight criterion)
– Copies of data recording & analyzing handouts
• Tissue paper, coffee filters, or cotton balls
• String, cable ties
Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:
- Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
- Helps students develop growth mindset traits like persistence and resilience
- High levels of student engagement
- The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)
- Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.
Each design iteration should be planned for ~60 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. If you add extension activities, you will need to adjust timing accordingly.
What do teachers have to say about this resource?
“My students loved completing this challenge! They enjoyed the friendly competition in creating a package that would withstand the bumps and I appreciated the reflective pieces included to spark some meaningful conversation. Thanks!”
“This was so much fun!! It made our Christmas party memorable!!”
“Another easy to use STEM activity that my kids loved!”
“My students really loved this activity. It was a great real world issue for them to solve.”
“I can't wait to use this with my first graders! They love STEM and this is one project that is completely accessible to them. LOVE IT! :)”
You might also like these resources:
STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):
Please check out the video preview to see the challenge, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!
Video preview music credit:
"Carefree" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License