Keep your students engaged in brain-busting work disguised as fun with this Valentine’s Day STEM Challenge, Heavy Hearts!

Valentine’s Day STEM Challenge: “Heavy” Hearts

Do you remember Frosted Forest? “Heavy” Hearts is a Valentine’s Day STEM challenge that shares a few similarities; consider them cousins! This paper heart STEM challenge is heavy on math and has a very wide range of difficulty level options available. One of the best parts — you probably already have all the materials you need at your fingertips!


In the Valentine’s Day STEM challenge, “Heavy” Hearts, students fill an outer heart with inner hearts they create in three unique size/color groups. Each heart is given point values based on the criteria & constraints and measurement standards set by the teacher. Students are aiming to find the configuration that creates the “heaviest” heart.

Students designing paper hearts in the Valentine's Day STEM challenge, Heavy Hearts

Materials for Heavy Hearts Valentine’s Day STEM Challenge

The list of materials you’ll need is short and easily modified, making this Valentine’s Day STEM activity simple to incorporate with very little need for additional prep. You’ll need:

  • Colored construction or printer paper (3 – 6 sheets)
    Recommended one sheet each of red, pink, and purple per partner/group
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • Scissors
  • Rulers
  • Heart outline copies
  • Design analysis handouts

Optional Materials

  • Folders, Ziploc bags, or large envelopes to contain cutouts if using on multiple days.
  • Glue (if you want students to glue their final design in place)
  • Calculators (for younger students and/or those with special needs)
Materials for Valentine's Day STEM activity, Heavy Hearts.

Where Can I Find Out More?

As you may already be aware, I’ve found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is the best way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about the Valentine’s Day STEM challenge “Heavy” Hearts. However, if you prefer to read, you’ll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.

Regular Video Walk-Through:


Pandemic Makeover:

Are There Other Valentine’s Day STEM Challenges Like This?

Yes! You’ll find all five of the Valentine’s Day STEM challenge activities I’ve created in the 5-challenge bundle briefly described in this post. Each challenge post is linked there for the walk-through videos and more details. You can also find this Valentine’s Day STEM paper hearts activity, Heavy Hearts, alone (top left) or in a bundle of 5 Valentine’s Day STEM activities (top right). You may also like the Late Winter STEM Activities Bundle & the St. Patrick’s Day STEM Challenge Activities Bundle. Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students’ work on Facebook & Instagram!

Valentine's Day STEM paper hearts challenge, Heavy Hearts

5 Valentine's STEM activity challenges bundle

A bundle of 5 late winter STEM activities


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Video Transcription

Hi there, welcome to week two of the Valentine’s Day STEM challenges. This week, we are talking about Heavy Hearts. This challenge is very heavy on the math and it is a 2D challenge. The premise of this one is the students are attempting to fill an outer heart with inner hearts that are worth points in order to make the heaviest heart. Before I get any further, let’s 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. I’ve added a pop-in card to that video here, as well as a link in the description.

Just like frosted forest, this challenge has a very wide range of difficulty available in both the criteria and constraints that the students build against and how they measure their results. I’ll be giving you some ideas to keep it simple for younger students and then add some difficulty for older students. First things first, you’re going to need to create an outer heart. You can just give an outline template the way that I’ve done here on regular printer paper.

Another idea is to cut off butcher paper or use poster boards and have the students create their own outer hearts. If you do use something like butcher paper or poster board, you can put students into groups rather than partnerships, but if you’re gonna keep it on a regular 8.5 x 11-inch sheet, you’re definitely gonna want to keep partners. Because otherwise, students can’t really get in there enough to manipulate and work with the materials and they’ll lose their patience.


The basic criteria and constraints that I start with in this challenge, you need to have three different sizes of hearts. The hearts need to be symmetrical and they need to share a side or point with another color of heart. Hearts can contact each other but they may not overlap. They may not go outside the outer heart border.

There are several different ways to handle the inner hearts. One is to use the traditional symbol and another is to use overlapping rectangles. Something you can do to make this a little simpler is to give students pre-cut different sizes of construction paper.

If you’re going for a traditional symbol, you’re going to want to give them precut squares and if you’re going for a geometric heart, you’re going to want to give them rectangles instead. The ratio here is about two to one length to length. My preference is usually just to give full sheets of construction paper in three different colors and let the students figure it out for themselves on their own and develop their own systems.

While I think it’s definitely appropriate for younger students to give them some support, you don’t want to give too much. Otherwise this runs into a territory of craftivity which is not what we’re going for with the STEM challenge. If you’re gonna give them the paper cutouts, don’t show them how to make the geometric hearts.

Or if you’re going to show them how to make the geometric hearts, don’t give them everything already precut out. You want to have them make some of these decisions on their own. The inner heart production is an important piece, so if when you walk around you see partners and groups developing efficient systems, make sure that you note that down for yourself so when you get back to the class discussion, you can bring it up.


It’s one of those things that might get overlooked, but it’s an important part of the challenge. One of the reasons some groups are more successful than others. I’m going to be talking a lot about the length and width of the hearts. What I’m talking about is the length at the longest part of the heart and the width at the widest part of the heart. It might be helpful to show students how to put a heart in a box, real or imaginary, in order to find out what is the longest point of a heart and what is the widest part of the heart in order to take their measurements.

One thing you can do to add more difficulty is to require that each time you move up from one size of heart to the next, that it must be at least 50% longer than the previous size. You can also set a criteria or a constraint about the ratio of the length to the width of each heart so you might say that it can be no more than 2:1. Another thing you can do in length to width ratios is just require that each color group has a unique ratio of length to width.

You can set up a criterion for percent contribution by color group, so the pink hearts have to comprise 30% of the design. The purple hearts another 30% and then the red hearts would be the remaining 40%. You can do the percent contribution by the total number of a color group as compared to the whole set of inner hearts. Or you can do it by point values which we’re gonna talk about shortly. Of course another way to make it more challenging is to make the outer heart larger.


Now let’s talk about assigning point value. You can keep this super simple by just assigning an arbitrary point value for small medium and large. Small hearts are all worth one point, medium worth two and large worth three. The next thing you can do is teach students to take the length and width of the heart and the point value can be based on either the length or the width or the sum of the two if you’d like.

If you want to make a little bit more challenging, you can multiply the length times width or multiply and then divide by two. One benefit of going with the geometric hearts is you can assign point value by the true area. Maybe you’re practicing multiplying decimals or percents right now. You
can just assign an arbitrary role, like the point value is 60% of the length x 30% of the width.

To extend on this one, you can have students do a second round where they go from the traditional symbol to a geometric symbol or vice versa and see which one was more successful. One graph that’s a great fit for this is a stacked bar graph, if that’s appropriate for your age group. The total bar would go to the total points for the heart and then within that, the students would break up how many points were their purple hearts and their pink and their red.

Another great thing to do to extend is to line up everybody’s Heavy Hearts with the point values, put them on a bulletin board and have the students go in their groups and start to pull out some observations. Try to analyze what approaches work well and what did not work as well. And of course since we’re talking about hearts, anything about the circulatory system or the human heart would be great.


You have the basics you need in order to conduct this challenge on your own, but definitely check out the resource because it’s got some extras and goodies and it’s gonna save you some time. Love is in the air. 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 hard parts are done.

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 Heavy Hearts Materials list. In Teacher Tips, you’ll find premise and setup, 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, you’ll get an outer heart template, student directions and data recording sheet. There are two versions of design analysis handouts. Four-page expanded room for response for younger students, and a two-page condensed space paper saver version. You’ll also find a set of group discussion questions. In the Extension Handouts, you’ll find editable task card templates, examples, answer recording sheet, and tips as well as process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of a discounted Valentine’s and Mega STEM challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

One of the best things about this challenge is that you probably already have all the materials you need, so this is a really quick print and go. Don’t forget to like and subscribe. I’m gonna be back next week with candy container. See you next time.

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Valentine's Day STEM Challenge: In "Heavy" Hearts, students fill an outer heart with inner hearts based on certain criteria & constraints in order to design the “heaviest” heart. Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.
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