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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 in partners or groups, students will build a sleigh and ramp designed to transport the sleigh the greatest possible distance. (Note: there is a "Sled & Slope" version of student handouts in case you prefer a winter / non-Christmas activity.)
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
Student Handouts – two sets: one for Sleigh & Slope and one for Sled & Slope
- 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) (color and black & white)
- Discussion Questions (in color and B&W)
- Design an Experiment: Reducing Friction (with sample answers)
- Process Flow Map
- Math Extension
This is one of five Winter / Christmas STEM Challenges. They can be purchased in a bundle at a 40% 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.)
– Cardboard, cardstock, cereal box, or paper plates
– Pipe cleaners (5 – 10)
– Small bows (2)
• Bows are to symbolize gifts; small candies can be substituted (If you’re doing the Sled & Slope version, you’ll need small people to ride the sleds. Think: little, plastic, green army men. Two riders will work well.)
– Popsicle/craft sticks (10 – 15)
– Rubber bands (5 – 10)
– Foil (12 – 24 in.)
– Straws (5 – 10)
– Tape (12 – 24 in.)
– Ruler or measuring tape
– Copies of data recording & analyzing handouts
• Wood scraps
• Paper bags
• Coffee filters
• Plastic cutlery
• Balloons (rocket boosters)
• 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 classes loved these activities. They were discussing and figuring out ways to improve their projects too. They learned a lot from these.”
“My second-graders had a great time with this challenge. It fit in well with our unit on motion, position and force. Thanks!”
“I love these STEM projects. The kids go crazy over them :)”
You might also like these resources:
STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):