Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas STEM Challenge: Jingle All The Way

Christmas STEM Challenge: Students make a new sleigh for Santa for middle school grades 5-8 and upper elementary grades 3-5.You just might have a few days in December where you've finished up a unit but don't want to start a new one.  This is the perfect time to do a STEM Challenge!  Harness all the students' energy into an innovative and productive project.  The kids will have so much fun that they will forget they are practicing math, science, and engineering skills in the process!

This Christmas STEM Challenge called Jingle All The Way asks students to design a new sleigh for Santa out of common household items within a limited amount of time.  The new sleigh must meet Santa's certain specifications and will be tested by adding pennies, which will represent presents.  Students will go through the design process to create Santa's new sleigh that meets his specifications and test the sleigh using pennies to represent the weight of the presents Santa needs to hold in his sleigh.  Students will make improvements to the sleigh after the first trial to yield a stronger sleigh for the second trial.

Your classroom will be buzzing with positive activity throughout this challenge.  Students get excited to sketch and share their ideas with each other to make the strongest sleigh.  The element of limited time also causes the students to have a sense of urgency that keeps this activity at a high energy level!

The middle school kids in grades 5-8 are expected to identify the need, research the problem, design a solution by writing detailed procedures and sketching prototypes, build and test a prototype, and troubleshoot.  The younger students in grades 3-5 are asked to follow the same steps - but in a simpler way.  These kiddos will Ask, Imagine, Create, and Improve.

The most awesome part of facilitating a STEM Challenge, for me, is to witness the extraordinary creativity that your students will exhibit during this type of an activity.  As adults, we have lost a lot of our imagination - so when we see a handful of random household objects listed as materials, we think: What do you do with these???  We think there has to be one certain way to make whatever it is we are being challenged to design. But, the kids will be able to come up with design ideas beyond what we could have ever imagined!  There might be a couple kids that need a few minutes to grease the wheels of innovation, but once they get going there will be no stopping their enthusiasm!

Starting STEM in elementary is a fantastic way for kids to fall in love with science.  The kids learn how to cultivate their thinking by following the STEM Design Process during a time when they already think outside of the box!  These steps will help them create even more advanced prototypes and troubleshoot at a higher analytical level as they get older - hopefully leading them to successful career paths!

Love this activity but don't have the time to design it yourself?  A student handout, corresponding presentation, and detailed lesson plan is available in my TeachersPayTeachers store for grades 3-5 and grades 5-8 in either PowerPoint or SMART Board formats!

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