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This Thanksgiving STEM / STEAM Challenge will engage your students in brain-busting work disguised as fun while following the Pilgrims’ journey to the New World! These Thanksgiving activities are fun AND a good use of instructional time!
The basic premise:
Working against a criteria/constraints list Individually or in partners/groups, students build a ship that is designed to hold as much capacity as possible, and/or sails the fastest from “England” to “America.”
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
- Post-design extension activities list
- Link to a video walk-through of the challenge
- Criteria & Constraints List (editable; in color and B&W)
- Design Analysis Handouts (editable; 2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) (color and black & white)
- Discussion Questions (editable; in color and B&W)
- Process Flow Map
- Create Math Problems Based on Designs
This is one of five Thanksgiving 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!
...And Mini Mayflower is also included in Boat Building, which also includes a version that dives deeper into data and design analysis.
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.)
– For each student or group:
• Popsicle/craft sticks, foil sheets, and/or 3x5 cards
• Tape (masking tape or packing tape perform best, constrain to 12 in. or less)
• Copies of data recording & analyzing handouts
– Optional ideas:
• For building: Clay, pipe cleaners, clay, twine, straws
• For recording data: rulers/measuring tapes, scales, stopwatches (if conducting the speed test)
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 class loved this and showed such amazing thinking as they worked together on it.”
“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!”
“My kids loved this! I was really impressed with what they managed to create. Thank you!”
“I added this to my First Thanksgiving unit last year. The students (and the principal) loved it!”
“This was a fun and challenging project for my 3rd graders! Thank you!”
“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."
"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!"
"More awesome STEM challenges by Kerry Tracy. I have a real STEM/STEAM focus in my classroom, and these activities fit in so nicely with my style of teaching and curriculum. The price can't be beat, either!"
You might also like these resources:
STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):
Or these great resources:
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