Looking for St. Patrick’s Day activities that your students will love but are more than just a craft or activity to pass the time? This St. Patrick’s STEM Challenge (or STEAM Challenge) will keep your students engaged in brain-busting work disguised as fun!
The basic premise:
Working against criteria & constraints individually or in partners/groups, students will design and build one or more devices to transfer leprechaun gold from his pot to their own.
- 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 Slides:
- Criteria & Constraints List (editable version provided)
- Results and Design Analysis
- Discussion Questions
- Extension templates
- Write a Limerick
- Process Flow Map
- Math Extension options (Identifying even vs. odd numbers; using divisibility rules with 4-digit numbers; using divisibility rules with square roots and exponents, and create-your-own word problems)
- Math Extension Option: Identifying equivalent percents, fractions, and decimals
Sample/suggested materials for each student or group:
(Materials you’ll need to do the activity are easily modified.)
- Pots of “gold” to test designs (1 per group or 1 whole-class)
- Pots: Halloween plastic cauldrons look the part, but any bowl will do.
- Gold: chocolate coins, Almond Hershey’s Kisses, Rolos, etc. (two or three bags should be plenty for the whole class)
- Alternate option: if you also did the “Guard the Gold” challenge, use student-made pots of gold.
- Pipe cleaners (5 – 10)
- String/yarn (12 24 in.)
- Tape (12 – 24 in.)
- Rubber bands (5 – 10)
- Bags to collect gold (1)
- Ruler/measuring tape
- Design analysis handouts (included)
- Craft sticks (5 – 10)
- Paperclips (10 – 20)
- Straws (5 – 10)
- Binder clips or clothespins (5)
- Bowls, cups, or coffee filters (1)
- Plastic spoons, knives, or forks
- Decoy/fool’s gold: crumpled yellow paper, cotton balls, etc.
Benefits of this STEM Design Challenge:
- Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and application of learning
- Helps students develop growth mindset traits like persistence and resilience
- High levels of student engagement
- The potential to hit upon all NGSS ETS standards depending on the depth and number of iterations you choose to implement in your classroom (modifications included)
- Highly flexible and differentiated for materials, timing, grade levels, and rigor.
Each design iteration should be planned for ~60 min. if you are including data gathering and analysis rather than just building for fun. If you add extension activities, you will need to adjust timing accordingly.
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