Thanksgiving approaches, and with it, the first long-ish holiday of the year. Sometimes you can feel yourself dragging your battered legs to that finish line, trying to keep kids engaged. This is why I love incorporating a STEM activity for Thanksgiving, especially one that encourages a friendly competitive spirit among my students! They’re naturally enjoyable activities that are chock full of academic rigor (when done properly/with intent).
This fall STEM activity challenge works any time, but was originally created as part 1 of the Thanksgiving STEM series. Over the coming weeks, I will be describing all five (5) STEM activities for Thanksgiving that follow the needs encountered by people meeting their basic needs:
– Mini Mayflower / Mini Mishoon STEM activity (Get to where you’re going)
– Protect the People STEM activity (Build a shelter)
– Pumpkin Picker STEM activity (Gather available food)
– Corn Cultivator STEM Activity (Set up sustainable food source)
– Turkey Transporter STEM Activity (Once all major needs are met, there’s time for fun!)
This week, we’re working on water transportation with the Mini Mishoon/Mini Mayflower STEM activity for Thanksgiving!
The premise of this exciting Fall STEM activity is quite simple yet engaging: students will work individually or in partners/groups to design and build a boat. But here’s the twist – these boats are not just any boats. They are specially crafted to meet specific criteria and constraints. The Wampanoag and Pilgrims depended on water transportation for their survival and success, and now your students get to experience a taste of that reality.
The challenge is to create vessels that can either carry as much cargo as possible (capacity can be measured in any uniform object: pennies, base ten blocks, candy pumpkins) or sail the fastest. It’s like a mini engineering adventure that unleashes the inner inventors within your students, encouraging collaboration, fostering teamwork, and even igniting a bit of friendly competition!
The list of materials you’ll need is short and easily modified, making this STEM activity for Thanksgiving simple to incorporate with very little need for additional prep. You’ll need:
- Container filled with water to test the boats (be sure to choose a container with appropriate dimensions, or constrain students on length, width, height accordingly).
- Set of uniform objects to measure capacity (pennies, base-ten blocks, paperclips, balance weights, bouncy balls, etc.)
- Popsicle/craft sticks, foil sheets, and/or 3×5 cards
- Tape (masking tape or packing tape perform best, constrain to 12 in. or less)
Optional material ideas:
- For building: Clay, pipe cleaners, clay, twine, straws
- For recording data: rulers/measuring tapes, scales, stopwatches (if conducting the speed test)
Where Can I Find Out More?
The video walk-through of this STEM activity for Thanksgiving is embedded below. In it, you’ll find all the details on how to make the most of this fantastic Fall STEM activity with information about materials, modifying difficulty level, extensions and some tips & tricks to guide you, so you can better guide your students through the challenge. Check it out.
The Mini Mayflower and Mini Mishoon Thanksgiving STEM Challenge brings the best of both worlds – seasonal fun and educational engagement. So, are you ready to set sail on this Thanksgiving STEM adventure with your students?
You can find this Fall and Thanksgiving Pumpkin STEM activity alone (top left) or in a bundle of 5 Thanksgiving STEM activities (top right). You may also like the Fall STEM Activities Bundle & the Halloween STEM Activities Bundle.
You can also find the Mini Mayflower & Mini Mission STEM activity on Etsy!
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