Thanksgiving STEM Activity - Mini Mayflower and Mini Mishoon

Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
Formats Included
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30 pages
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  1. These Thanksgiving STEM activities will keep your students engaged right up until the break as they design and build devices to help the Wampanoag and/or Pilgrims meet their needs for transportation, shelter, food, and more. Modification suggestions are included to make these challenges engaging and
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  2. Super-charge your STEM class with 52 high-engagement, critical thinking, problem-solving, NGSS-aligned challenges to take you through the entire year! Modifications are included to make these activities engaging and challenging for students in grades 2 - 8. The basic premise: Students work in partne
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  3. The Mini Mayflower / Mini Mishoon Thanksgiving STEM Challenge will engage your students in brain-busting work disguised as fun as they design water transportation for the Wampanoag or Pilgrims!The basic premise:Working against a criteria/constraints list Individually or in partners/groups, students
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The Mini Mayflower / Mini Mishoon Thanksgiving STEM Challenge will engage your students in brain-busting work disguised as fun as they design water transportation for the Wampanoag or Pilgrims!

The basic premise:

Working against a criteria/constraints list Individually or in partners/groups, students build a boat that is designed to hold as much capacity as possible, and/or sails the fastest.


Note: This is the printable version (but you can upload the editable version to Google Slides). If you are in a 1:1 / paperless classroom, you may prefer the version specifically designed for use with GOOGLE SLIDES (TM).

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.


Resource includes:

NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8

Teacher Tips

  • Links to my STEM Challenge PD video series
  • Materials and timing
  • Criteria & Constraints (including modifications to increase difficulty for older students)
  • Measuring results
  • Post-design extension activities list
  • Link to a video walk-through of the challenge

EDITABLE Student Handouts

  • Criteria & Constraints List (two levels of difficulty included in color and B&W)
  • Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included in color and black & white)
  • Discussion Questions (in color and B&W)

Extension templates

  • Speak, Listen, Draw Oral Communication activity
  • Process Flow Map
  • Create Math Problems Based on Designs


Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

(Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified. )

  • Container filled with water to test the boats (be sure to choose a container with appropriate dimensions, or constrain students on length, width, height accordingly).
  • Set of uniform objects to measure capacity (pennies, base-ten blocks, paperclips, balance weights, bouncy balls, etc.)
  • Popsicle/craft sticks, foil sheets, and/or 3x5 cards
  • Tape (masking tape or packing tape perform best, constrain to 12 in. or less)
  • Scissors

Optional ideas:

• For building: Clay, pipe cleaners, clay, twine, straws

• For recording data: rulers/measuring tapes, scales, stopwatches (if conducting the speed test)


What do teachers have to say about this resource?

“WOW! My kids are completely invested in the building of the mini Mayflower. I even had a student thank me for letting them do the activity. The kids are problem solving, using critical thinking skills, and I love the reflection that takes place after the students complete the challenge. The discussions we've been able to have are inspiring! GREAT PRODUCT!”

"I tried this with my firsties last year, and they LOVED it!  I look forward to using it this year, too!  :)"

"Loved this activity.  Did it for a big group activity for 4th - 8th.  Engaged all ages.  Took about 45 minutes first day (handing out materials, directions, implementation and design of boat).  About an hour the second day, because we had almost 20 groups!  It was easy to follow and so much fun.  Highly recommend this STEM.  We only did capacity.  We might do again for speed.  LOVED IT!!!"

“I added this to my First Thanksgiving unit last year. The students (and the principal) loved it!”

"My 3rd graders had SO much fun making their Mayflowers and "sailing" them! We didn't have time to do everything provided in this activity sadly, but I love this STEM challenge and I love how it can be used for such a variety of levels! I look forward to using this every year!"

“My fifth graders loved this! Thanks!”

"There was so much more in this product than I could have imagined for $3! My students loved this activity and I loved that I could incorporate science into my Thanksgiving day plans! Thank you."

"This was perfect for those two days before Thanksgiving break. My students loved this activity." (6th grade)


You might also like these resources:


Thanksgiving STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle

Christmas/Winter STEM Design Challenge: 5-in-1 Bundle

Halloween STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle

Speak, Listen & Draw Task Cards


Please check out the video preview to see the challenge, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!


Total Pages
30 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
90 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.


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