Looking for a fun Thanksgiving activity that incorporates science, technology, engineering, and/or math? This one also works for autumn and Halloween!
The basic premise:
Individually, or in partners/groups, students will design and build a device to harvest a field of pumpkins as efficiently as possible. (Efficiency is measured in amount of time or number of moves needed to clear the pumpkin patch.) Once picked, pumpkins will be deposited in a harvest container.
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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!
Note: This product was updated in Sept. 18, 2016.
Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:
- Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
- 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 approximately 60 – 90 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. Again, I recommend working on STEM Design Challenges in multiple iterations to get the full value.
This particular challenge is a perfect opportunity to practice multiplying & identifying factors with arrays, measurement, perimeter & area, multiplying % to project how changes in design efficiency or pumpkin patch size might impact future results. Suggestions for these and other types of math extension problems/tasks are included.
Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified.
For each student or group:
o Candy pumpkins or candy corn (24 – 36) (Rolos or wrapped caramels can be substituted)
o Pipe cleaners (5 – 10)
o Popsicle/craft sticks (10 – 15)
o Plastic spoons (5 – 10)
o Bowl or holding container for harvested pumpkins
o Copies of pumpkin patch guide handout or green construction paper
o Copies of data recording & analyzing handouts
• Rulers/measuring tapes
• Tape, cable ties, rubber bands
- Links to my 5-part video series on getting started with STEM challenges
- Premise & Set-up
- Materials and timing
- Modifying Criteria & Constraints to adjust challenge difficulty
- Measuring results
- Post-design extension activities list & links
- Universal STEM Challenge Notes & How to Use Student Handouts
- Criteria & Constraints List (editable version provided) [color and black & white]
- Design Analysis Handouts (Two sets for two different challenge goals and two versions of each: 2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) [color and black & white]
- Discussion Questions [color and black & white]
- Process Flow Map
- Math Task Card templates (with 12 leveled examples & editable version provided)
- Pumpkin outline writing templates
What are teachers saying about Pumpkin Picker?
“This is a fun STEM challenge that is very thought provoking. Excellent tie in to writing and math, and very detailed teacher notes and steps. That makes it so much easier to get everything set up so the students can start learning. Great product! Thank you!”
“Perfect for my little engineers!”
“I used this with my 8th grade STEM class and they had such an amazing time. I couldn't find any pumpkin candies or candy corn in stores (even though it wasn't even Thanksgiving yet) so I used caramels instead. It worked like a charm because they are about the same size and consistency. I will be using this again!”
You may also like these products:
STEM CHALLENGE YEAR-ROUND MEGA-BUNDLE
Thanksgiving STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle
Back-to-School (apples & school supplies) Bundle
Christmas/Winter STEM Design Challenge: 5-in-1 Bundle
Thanksgiving Parts of Speech Activity (2nd – 3rd)
Halloween STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle
Analyze and Interpret Data Unit
Getting Started with STEM Challenges FREEBIE