Winter or Christmas STEM Challenge Activity - Frozen Fortress

Rated 4.88 out of 5, based on 146 reviews
146 Ratings
Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
Grade Levels
2nd - 8th
Resource Type
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30 pages
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Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
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  3. 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” fortres
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Winter STEM activities keep your kids engaged in brain-busting work disguised as fun through all the craziness leading up to winter vacation!

Frozen Fortress Winter STEM Challenge Activity Overview:

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 is the printable version, though you can upload the editable handouts to Google Slides™ if desired. However, if you are in a 1:1 / paperless classroom, you may prefer the digital option designed specifically for use with GOOGLE SLIDES™ 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.


Resource includes:

NGSS aligned standards, Grades 2 – 8

Teacher Tips

  • 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

EDITABLE Student Handouts

  • Criteria & Constraints List (in color and black & white)
  • Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) (in color and black & white)
  • Discussion Questions (in color and B&W)

Extension templates

  • Cold Synonyms, Antonyms, Similes, & Metaphors Handouts (editable)
  • Process Flow Map
  • Math Extension


This is one of five Winter / Christmas STEM Challenge Activities. They can be purchased in a bundle at a discount:

Winter and Christmas STEM Challenge Activities Bundle (2nd – 8th)

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.)

  • 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.
  • 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 do teachers have to say 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!"


You might also like these resources:

STEM Challenges & Bundles (grades 2 – 8):


Winter and Christmas STEM Challenge Activities Bundle (2nd – 8th)

Snow Scoop Winter STEM Activity

Frosted Forest Winter STEM Activity

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle

Valentine’s Day STEM Challenge 5-in-1 Bundle

Analyze and Interpret Data Unit

Getting Started with STEM Challenges FREEBIE


Please check out the video preview to see the challenge, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!


Total Pages
30 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
1 hour
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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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