Thanksgiving STEM Activity - Pilgrim or Wampanoag Shelter (Paperless Version)

Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
30 pages
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  3. This Thanksgiving STEM / STEAM Challenge is collaborative, brain-busting work disguised as fun!The basic premise:Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build a shelter to protect one or more Pilgrims or Wampanoag people from wind, rain, and snow.--Note: Pilgrim and Wampanoag cu
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This Thanksgiving STEM Challenge will keep your kids engaged in brain-busting work disguised as fun this fall.

The basic premise:

Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build a shelter to protect one or more Pilgrims or Wampanoags from wind, rain, and snow.

--Note: Pilgrim and Wampanoag cut-outs have been provided, so you have the option of using either or both.


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 Thanksgiving STEM Challenges. They can be purchased in a bundle at a 40% discount:

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: 5-in-1 DIGITAL/PAPERLESS Bundle


Resource includes:

NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8

Teacher Tips

- Links to STEM Challenge how-to videos

- 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

Student Slides

- Criteria & Constraints List (editable version provided)

- Design Analysis

- Discussion Questions

Extension slides

- Process flow map

- Create & solve math problems based on designs

- Video/website linked slides

- Identifying Physical Properties


Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

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

– Popsicle/craft sticks (30 – 50)

– Pipe cleaners (5 – 10)

– Masking or packing tape (24 – 36 in.)

– Foil

– Cardboard / paper plates / small cups

– Scissors

– Ruler (to measure shelter dimensions)

– Copies of data recording & analyzing handouts

– Spray bottle, eye dropper (to simulate rain)

– Bottled Water (to simulate snow weight)

– Small fan (to simulate wind; alternatively, you can blow through a straw)

Optional ideas:

– Straws

– Coffee filters

– 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 ~60-90 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?

Note: Comments taken from the print version.

“This product was very thoughtfully laid out. It was very easy to follow, engaging, and creative! I really appreciate how you made cross curricular ties to math and language arts. Sometimes it's tricky to do with science, and this will really help students have fun and make connections. Thank you!”

“Fun activity to use year after year. It was a great way to challenge my students with learning disabilities ( high school). They loved doing this activity.”

“My middle school kids had a lot of fun.”

“So awesome! My firsties really enjoyed this activity.”

“My students loved this activity. The worksheets that went with it were perfect. I'm going to do it again next year after we research pilgrim's daily life and their environment.”

“My 7th and 8th graders loved this!”

"Did it with first graders...They loved it!"

“This was an awesome STEM!! Our kids loved doing this!! Thank you for the thorough packet!!”

“My kids are LOVING these Thanksgiving STEM activities! The engagement level is high and it's a perfect activity to keep learning going even though the holidays are approaching and kids know there is going to be a break from school!”

“So much fun. The students loved it. Great for critical thinking!”


You might also like these resources:


Halloween STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle

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

Analyze and Interpret Data Unit


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


Total Pages
30 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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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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