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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:
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.
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 (editable; in color and black & white)
- Optional pumpkin patch grid for setup
- 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
- Math Task Card templates (editable; with 12 leveled examples & editable version provided)
- Pumpkin outline writing templates (editable)
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!
Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:
(Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified.)
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
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.
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.
What do teachers have to say about this resource?
“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!”
"I was leery about paying $4 for this because it seemed like something I could easily do on my own, but there are lots of extra resources and ideas that would allow you to extend this challenge into a week or even more. Well done!"
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!