Looking for a fun Christmas or winter activity that incorporates science, technology, engineering, and/or math? Winter STEM / STEAM Challenges are the perfect activities because they engage your students in brain-busting work disguised as fun!
The basic premise:
In partners/small groups, students will design the “iciest” tree possible.
• Using a criteria/constraints list, students will build a tree with branches. They will also create triangular icicles to attach to the branches. Point values are assigned to each triangle based on various criteria (dependent on age group). Students attempt to create the iciest tree possible in the class’s Frosted Forest.
• This challenge can be run simply (focusing on shape creation & manipulation, measurement, and addition), or you can add complexity (focusing on triangle classification by sides and angles, layering icicles, assigning point value based on area, etc.). Two editable criteria/constraints lists are provided to highlight either end of the spectrum.
If it’s out of season, feel free to call it “Triangle Tree” instead! No need to wait until the winter!
Check out the video preview to see what is included in this resource (skip ahead to 8:07 to see what is included in the resource):
Note: If you are in a 1:1 classroom, you may prefer the
digital format, compatible with Google Slides ™.
- 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
- Student Handouts
- Criteria & Constraints List (color and black & white; editable version provided)
- Design Analysis Handouts (2-page regular spacing and 4-page expanded spacing for primary students included) (editable; color and black & white)
- Discussion Questions (editable; in color and B&W)
- Triangle Templates
- Extension templates
- Classifying Triangles Practice (Notes/directions are editable; answer key included)
- Process Flow Map
- Math Extension
Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:
(Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified. You don’t need to provide all of the following materials. Select a subset and/or add in your own ideas.)
For each student or group:
- White construction or copy paper (3-8 pages)
- 7 triangle templates are included, or students can create their own triangular icicles in a computer program or by hand.
- Pipe cleaners (5 – 8)
- Craft sticks (5 – 8)
- Straws (5 – 8)
- Small paper cups (4 – 6), cardboard tubes, and/or cardboard scraps
- Scissors (ideal for each student to have his/her own)
- Masking or clear tape (1 roll/group; don’t limit the tape)
- Rulers (ideal for each student to have his/her own)
- Protractors (if measuring angles; ideal for each student to have his/her own)
- Folders, Ziploc bags, or large envelopes to contain triangle cutouts if working on multiple days.
- Calculators (for younger students and/or those with special needs to calculate point values)
This resource is also available in paperless format and as part of the Late Winter and the Mega STEM Challenge bundles. Click through below: