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 design and build a “snowball” fortress wall with two main criteria: greatest area (or just height or length for younger students) and ability to withstand a “snowball” attack.
Note: This version is for use with Google Slides in 1:1/paperless classrooms. If you prefer to print and have students complete work with paper/pencil, you'll want to look at the printable version 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.
This is one of five challenges available at a 30% discount in the Christmas/Winter STEM Bundle.
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
- Design Analysis
- Discussion Questions
- Arctic/Antarctic Animal Adaptation Research Handout
- Cold Synonyms, Antonyms, Similes, & Metaphors Handouts
- Process Flow Map
- Math Extension
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.)
– Marshmallows: large, mini, or a mix (35 – 50)
• Sugar cubes or blocks can be substituted for building the fortress wall, but at least one marshmallow per student will still be needed for a “snowball” attack.
– Straws (10 – 15)
– Popsicle/craft sticks (10 – 15)
– Toothpicks (25 – 50)
– Small paper plates (1 or ½ of one)
– Work mat (construction paper, foil, newspaper, etc.)
– Copies of data recording & analyzing handouts
– Plastic knives, forks, and/or spoons
– Pipe cleaners
– Spool of wire (gardening or steel)
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 really enjoyed the activity and I appreciated the well thought out worksheets to go with it. It helps encourage thought and discussion even with a "fun" activity. It still helps build analytic thought, group work, reflection, etc. I appreciate that there were different levels all in one purchase as this makes it easier to differentiate. The extension activity was great, I actually use it as the morning work before we started on the activity to get the kids in the mindset of "okay, we are still in school but it will be fun." I'm a teacher that isn't in to the whole movie on the day before break so activities like this are perfect! Whew...okay, all that to say: thank you for taking the time to create this and share it!"
"Can't wait to introduce this challenge to my students. I love that all of your challenges are so engaging. Easy to follow instructions and clear connections to the standards.”
“A great activity for the week before Christmas break. It was messy fun for them and perfectly challenging.”
“Great for the winter doldrums!”
"Thank you so much for such a well thought out resource. The instructions were easy to follow and I love that there were many different levels included to meet the needs of my students. I love this resource!"
You might also like these resources:
STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):
STEM CHALLENGE YEAR-ROUND MEGA-BUNDLE
Christmas/Winter STEM Design Challenge: 5-in-1 Bundle
Thanksgiving STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle
Valentine’s Day STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle
Analyze and Interpret Data Unit
Getting Started with STEM Challenges FREEBIE
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