Winter STEM Challenge Activity - Frozen Fortress Print and Paperless Bundle

Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
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Christmas and Winter STEM Challenges are the perfect activities to engage your students in brain-busting work disguised as fun when they've got the winter crazies!

The basic premise:

Working against a criteria/constraints list in partners or groups, students will design and build a “snowball” fortress wall with two main criteria: greatest area (or just height or length for younger students) and ability to withstand a “snowball” attack.


Note: This resource includes both the printable version and the paperless option for use with GOOGLE SLIDES (TM) for 1:1 / paperless classroom.


Resource includes:

NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8

Teacher Tips

  • Links to STEM Challenge How-To videos
  • 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

Handouts & Google Slides(TM) Options for Student Recording & Reflecting

  • Criteria & Constraints List (editable)
  • Design Analysis (editable)
  • Discussion Questions (editable)

Extension templates

  • Arctic/Antarctic Animal Adaptation Research Handout (editable)
  • Cold Synonyms, Antonyms, Similes, & Metaphors Handouts (editable)
  • Process Flow Map
  • Math Extension


Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:

Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified.

  • Marshmallows: large, mini, or a mix (35 – 50)
    • Sugar cubes or blocks can be substituted for building the fortress wall, but at least one marshmallow per student will still be needed for a “snowball” attack. You could also wad up scrap paper snowballs and skip the food items!
  • Straws (10 – 15)
  • Popsicle/craft sticks (10 – 15)
  • Toothpicks (25 – 50)
  • Small paper plates (1 or ½ of one)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Work mat (construction paper, foil, newspaper, etc.)


  • Plastic knives, forks, and/or spoons
  • Pipe cleaners
  • String
  • Foil
  • Spool of wire (gardening or steel)
  • Tape


What are teachers saying about this resource?

"My students really enjoyed the activity and I appreciated the well thought out worksheets to go with it. It helps encourage thought and discussion even with a "fun" activity. It still helps build analytic thought, group work, reflection, etc. I appreciate that there were different levels all in one purchase as this makes it easier to differentiate. The extension activity was great, I actually use it as the morning work before we started on the activity to get the kids in the mindset of "okay, we are still in school but it will be fun." I'm a teacher that isn't in to the whole movie on the day before break so activities like this are perfect! Whew...okay, all that to say: thank you for taking the time to create this and share it!"

"Can't wait to introduce this challenge to my students. I love that all of your challenges are so engaging. Easy to follow instructions and clear connections to the standards.”

“A great activity for the week before Christmas break. It was messy fun for them and perfectly challenging.”

“Great for the winter doldrums!”

"This was such a great activity! I was able to successfully do this activity across a wide variety of grade levels!"

"Thank you so much for such a well thought out resource. The instructions were easy to follow and I love that there were many different levels included to meet the needs of my students. I love this resource!"

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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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