Thanksgiving is right around the corner; I can already smell the pumpkin pie! To keep kids engaged during the holiday season, why not walk them through the experiences of the Pilgrims as they settled into their new homes in the Plymouth Colony?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be going though five STEM challenges that serve that purpose:
– Mini Mayflower
(Get to where you’re going)
(Build a shelter)
– Pumpkin Picker
(Gather available food)
– Corn Cultivator
(Sustainable food source)
– Turkey Transporter
(Major needs are met; time for fun!)
Last week, the Pilgrims made it to the New World in Mini Mayflower. This week, it’s time to Protect-a-Pilgrim!
Students will design a shelter to protect a Pilgrim (or Native American) from wind, rain, and snow.
Where Can I Find Out More?
The video walk-through of Protect-a-Pilgrim is embedded below. In it, you’ll find 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. However, if you prefer to read, you’ll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.
This is the second of five Thanksgiving STEM Challenges. You’ll find all the Thanksgiving STEM challenges in the 5-challenge bundle briefly described in this post. Each challenge post is linked there for the walk-through videos and more details. For print or digital resources, click the images below. All challenges are available individually and in discounted bundles in my TpT store, as well.
Hello, and welcome to the week 2 of the Thanksgiving Week Challenges. Last week, the Pilgrims came over from the Old World to the New World in Mini Mayflower. This week, now that they’re here in Plymouth, they’re gonna need to build a shelter. This one’s called, “Protect the Pilgrim”, and before we go any further, let’s take a second to check out the materials and the STEM Challenge cycle.
This is the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every challenge. I’ve defined each step in another video. You can click on the title now to see the cycle explained.
One of the things that will be on your criteria constraints list, is a size requirement. So, something that will help with that is, if you have little cutouts of Pilgrims. Based on how big you want the shelters to be, that’s how big you make your Pilgrims. Mine are about three inches tall.
Something else you can do, if you don’t want to just have Pilgrims, you can always introduce Native American’s as well. I asked students to design a shelter that would keep the Pilgrims warm, dry, and safe. In order to make sure the shelters are warm, dry, and safe, we will be testing the shelters against rain, wind, and snow.
Once you’ve assured that the Pilgrims can in fact enter, once the Pilgrims are safe inside their shelter, then you’re gonna want to go ahead and test them. For wind, you can either set up a fan, if you have one of those little mini fans. Make sure that it blows, you test it from 360 degrees around the shelter, and the shelter should remain in place. If you don’t have a fan, you can always just use a straw.
For rain, you can use a spray bottle or you can just take a piece of foil or plastic wrap, and punch holes in it, and just sprinkle. You can use an eye dropper. Really anything. You can even have students design a rain maker. The idea is, if I were to spray at any point on the design, it would keep the Pilgrims dry. If I take the Pilgrims out and I find that they are wet, then my design has failed. Boy Pilgrim, safe and dry. Girl Pilgrim, safe and dry.
Safety in this challenge is really measured by whether or not the structure is strong enough to resist collapse if it snows, as it often does in New England. You can test this by putting any kind of weights on top of the structure. One easy thing to do is, just get some water bottles, or soda cans, or whatever. Success.
Just in case you were wondering what this one looks like, it’s like a basically little cave and the Pilgrim would just go inside. Now, he does have to duck but he can make it inside so, that’s all right. It is a little bit light, but it did withstand the wind test. I feel pretty confident it’s gonna withstand the rain test. I’m not sure about the snow test.
Okay. So, this one actually withstands it as well. Just like you saw me kind of working, and fiddling, and trying to find a place where I could put the water bottle, you can decide whether or not to allow the students to do that or not. With younger students, I would absolutely let them do it that way, and as long as they found any point on the structure where the water bottle would hold, it’s successful against snow. With older students, I would require that they test for the strength of the structure in at least two different places, and they could record their results as a two out of two successful, or a one out of two, or zero out of two.
Now, you might be tempted to test the structures until the failure point, just like we did with the Mini Mayflower last week. I’m gonna recommend against that this time. I did do a video a couple week back, that was about whether or not, all STEM Challenges should be competitions. The short answer is, “No.” I will link it up above if you want to take a look at that.
Basically, my feeling is, some STEM Challenges should just be, “Did you meet the criteria?”, and there can be many successful structures. So, that’s what were looking for in this case. Choose whatever your weight point is, and use the same weight on each structure. It’s really a “Yes” or “No”. “Did the structure withstand that weight? Yes or no?” You don’t need to make sure that all of the shelters collapse at the end of this one.
One thing you can do if you’re looking to increase the difficulty for older students, is to give them soft materials and very few rigid materials. I wouldn’t give older students Popsicle sticks if I was really trying to challenge them. It definitely makes it a lot more difficult to withstand the weight test. If you have nothing but malleable materials to work with but, it can be done.
You can also increase the number of Pilgrims or Native Americans that have to fit inside the structure in order to increase difficulty. For extensions on this, I would have students research what the Pilgrims actually did make their homes from in Plymouth. Then from a science perspective, I would use this as an opportunity to explore physical properties of matter, and identify the physical properties of the materials they used, as well as maybe some of the physical properties of materials that they would want to use, and that the Pilgrims used.
So, you have the basics and you’re ready to do this one your own in your classroom but, if you’re looking for more than just the basics, let’s say, “You want student handouts, more modifications, more cross curricular connections”, you need to check out the resource.
Give yourself the gift of time. This resource contains everything you need, including modifications for use with second through eighth graders. You’ll still need to gather the simple materials of course, but the rest is ready to go. You’ll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM Challenge How-to videos to help you get the most from each challenge, and the protected Pilgrim Materials list.
In Teacher Tips, you’ll find premise and set up, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the Criteria and Constraints list, measuring results, and cross-curricular extension suggestions. You’ll find an editable Criteria and Constraints list, so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For Student Handouts, there are two versions. Four-page expanded room for response for younger students, and a two-page condensed space paper saver version. You’ll also find a group of discussion questions and cutouts of Pilgrims and Native Americans.
In the Extension Handouts, you’ll find identifying physical properties, map extension, and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and is part of the discounted Thanksgiving and Mega STEM Challenge bundles. Links and be found in the description below the video.
I get a lot of really great feedback on this challenge, and I’ve gotten it from first grade teachers, all the way up through high school, SDC, and middle school, and everything in between. Be sure you like and subscribe. Next week, we’ll be back with Pumpkin Picker. See you next time.