Thanksgiving STEM Activity - Pilgrim or Wampanoag Shelters

Rated 4.88 out of 5, based on 505 reviews
505 Ratings
Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
Formats Included
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22 pages
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Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching

What educators are saying

I love this resource! I use it to go along with our science curriculum. We test the structures against different natural disasters! Thank you for a fun resource.
My students enjoyed working with this material and it was easy to prepare and use. GREAT STEM PROJECT!
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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 activity will keep your kids engaged!

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 cut-outs have been provided, so you have the option of using either or both.


Note: This is the printable version, though you can upload the editable student handouts to Google Slides™. However, if you are in a 1:1 / paperless classroom, you prefer the version designed specifically for use with GOOGLE SLIDES™ 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.


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
  • Universal STEM Challenge Notes & How to Use Student Handouts Post-design extension activities list
  • Link to a video walk-through of the challenge

EDITABLE Student Handouts

  • Criteria & Constraints List (in color and B&W)
  • Pilgrim and Wampanoag cut-outs for shelter-building (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

  • Process Flow Map
  • Create Math Problems Based on Designs
  • Physical Properties of Building Materials Handouts (“wide-rule” and “college rule” versions; editable)


This is one of five Thanksgiving STEM Challenge Activities. They can be purchased in a bundle at a 40% discount:

Thanksgiving STEM Design Challenge: 5-in-1 Bundle

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.)

  • 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)
  • 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


What do teachers have to say about this resource?

“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!”

"This was a great activity to wrap up our unit on Wampanoag and Pilgrims. I liked the planning and reflection documents."

“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!"

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


You might also like these resources:

STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):


Thanksgiving STEM Challenge Activities Bundle

Christmas - Winter STEM Challenge Activities Bundle

Halloween STEM Activities Bundle


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


Total Pages
22 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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