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:
Individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build a shelter to protect one or more Pilgrims from wind, rain, and snow.
--Note: Pilgrim and Native American cut-outs have been provided, so you have the option of using either or both.
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
- 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 (color and black & white; editable version provided)
- Pilgrim and Native American Cut-outs for shelter-building (color & B&W)
- Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) (color and black & white)
- Discussion Questions (in color and B&W)
- Process Flow Map
- Create Math Problems Based on Designs
- Physical Properties of Building Materials Handouts (“wide-rule” and “college rule” versions)
This is one of five Thanksgiving STEM Challenges. 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.)
– Cardboard / paper plates / small cups
– Ruler (to measure shelter dimensions)
– Copies of Pilgrim and/or Native America cut-outs
– 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)
– Coffee filters
– 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 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?
“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:
STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):
STEM CHALLENGE YEAR-ROUND MEGA-BUNDLE
Thanksgiving STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle
Christmas/Winter STEM Design Challenge: 5-in-1 Bundle
Halloween STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle
Or these great resources:
Photosynthesis: Hands-on Modeling Activity
Analyze and Interpret Data Unit
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!