As Thanksgiving approaches, we’re all looking for creative ways to engage our students while teaching them about the history and cultural diversity behind this cherished holiday. That’s where Thanksgiving STEM challenges come in! If you’re looking for an exciting and hands-on way to introduce your students to the world of Pilgrims and Wampanoags, all while nurturing their problem-solving and engineering skills, Protect the People STEM activity is a must-try!
This fall STEM activity challenge works any time, but was originally created as part 2 of the Thanksgiving STEM series. These five STEM activities help your kids think about the challenges Wampanoag and Pilgrims faced in their daily lives.
Five Thanksgiving STEM Challenges:
Mini Mayflower / Mini Mishoon (Get to where you’re going)
Protect the People (Build a shelter)
Pumpkin Picker (Gather available food)
Corn Cultivator (Sustainable food source)
Turkey Transporter (Major needs are met; time for fun!)
Last week, we built water transportation for the Pilgrims and Wampanoag. This week, it’s time to Protect the People with a shelter!
The Protect the People STEM activity challenges students to explore the historical context of the Thanksgiving holiday by designing and building shelters that will protect the Pilgrims or the Wampanoag people from wind, rain, and snow.
In addition to bringing history to life, this STEM activity helps your students develop crucial problem-solving and engineering skills. They’ll have to think about the materials they use, the structural integrity of their shelters, and how to make their models as accurate as possible. It’s a challenge that encourages them to be resourceful and creative!
The list of materials you’ll need is short and easily modified, making this STEM activity simple to incorporate with very little need for additional prep. You’ll need:
- Popsicle/craft sticks (30 – 50)
- Pipe cleaners (5 – 10)
- Masking or packing tape (24 – 36 in.)
- Cardboard / paper plates / small cups
- Ruler (to measure shelter dimensions)
- Spray bottle, eye dropper (to simulate rain)
- Bottled Water (to simulate snow weight)
- Small fan (to simulate wind; alternatively, you can blow through a straw)
Optional material ideas:
- Coffee filters
- Cable ties
What Do I Need to Know to Conduct the Protect the People Thanksgiving STEM Challenge?
The video walk-through of the Protect the People Challenge is embedded below. This video is your go-to source for all things related to the challenge including materials needed, how to tweak the difficulty level to fit your students’ needs, extension ideas to dive deeper into the challenge, and some handy tips and tricks to help you guide your students like a pro. Give the video a watch and get ready to ace the Protect the People STEM challenge with your students!
One of the best things about the Protect the People STEM Activity is that it gets kids moving and creating. It takes learning out of the textbooks and into the real world, where students can touch, feel, and experiment. As they research, design, and construct their Pilgrim and Wampanoag shelters, they’re not just memorizing facts, but they’re actively problem-solving and using their imagination. Don’t miss the opportunity to combine history, STEM, and hands-on learning this month!
You can find this Fall and Thanksgiving 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 Protect the People STEM activity on Etsy!