Every year at this time the kids are getting antsy, and I am just feeling done, dreaming of kicking up my feet by the fire with a nice glass of something cozy … but … it’s not even December yet! It’s way too early to give up trying to provide rigorous content. There is some good news though! You don’t have to choose between academics & winter fun. FOR.REAL!
Whether you need something to get you to Winter Break, or you need something to ease back in to school after the break, Winter STEM Challenges are where it’s at! And if I had to choose a hero among these challenges, Snowman Stretch is it. Why? It’s probably the lowest prep STEM Challenge on the planet, and it’s still highly adaptable to multiple age groups, so you can make it rigorous and engaging for just about any age.
Snowman Stretch uses extremely simple materials. In fact, all you really need is a few sheets of copy paper, tape, and scissors for this one. You can always add more, but you likely already have what you need already!
In Snowman Stretch, students build a freestanding, 3-tier snowman, aiming for maximum height. You can get a lot of mileage out of this challenge all winter long, by repeating the challenge while changing out the base materials and tweaking the Criteria & Constraints list to keep it fresh!
Modifying the Snowman Stretch STEM Challenge
If you have older students, consider these modifications to increase the difficulty:
- Instead of (or in addition to) height, build for max volume
- Tell the students that each successive tier must be 75% or less the height/volume of the previous tier
- Require students to make each tier a different geometric solid or all the same (e.g., cubist snowmen)
- Require students mix and match the primary material used within each tier. E.g., If tissue paper is used on the bottom tier, it can’t be used in any other tier. (Be sure you have materials to accommodate: copy paper, cardboard, cotton balls, foil, etc.)
- Build an inverted snowman: smallest tier at the base, largest tier at the top
- Try three or more consecutive days of snowmen builds using different materials (e.g. a single piece of cardboard, three pieces of copy paper, and tissue paper).
Extensions for Snowman Stretch
The first extension activity that comes to mind here is anything to do with states of matter, but particularly changes in state. Obviously, Frosty the Snowman’s big problem was that he was melting. Have students design an experiment in which they’re trying to figure out ways to either speed up the melting process or slow down the melting process (or do the Keep it Cool / Make it Melt STEM Challenge!)
If you choose to do either a challenge or experiment where you’re waiting for something to melt, there will be lulls where the students need to take observations but maybe only every five or 10 minutes. You’ll need something else to do to fill in those lulls; I would recommend the Reindeer Relay. The lulls are a good time to design for the challenge or to run that race.
You could also take a different route and study the science of snowflakes.
Of course, you can tie in some ELA by having students write a modernized version of Frosty the Snowman or a brand new tale involving student-designed snowmen come to life! Another idea teachers have recommended is having a snow-stravaganza where they read Snowflake Bentley and follow it up with one or more of the snow-based challenges:
Snowman Stretch STEM Challenge Video Walk Through
Snowman Stretch STEM Challenge Pandemic Makeover
Save Planning & Prep Time with the Resource!
Need More Christmas & Winter STEM Challenges to Save the Day?
Christmas / Winter STEM Challenges Overview
See the Christmas / Winter STEM Challenge Hub Page to Learn More!
Late Winter STEM Challenges Overview
See the Late Winter STEM Challenge Hub Page to Learn More!