In this St. Patrick's Day activity STEM Challenge, Get the Gold, students must create a design to extract leprechaun gold without getting caught!

St. Patrick’s Day Activity: Get the Gold STEM Challenge

In the last St. Patrick’s Day activity STEM challenge, Guard the Gold, the students helped a leprechaun protect his gold from treasure hunters. In this St. Patrick’s Day activity, Get the Gold, the students are now the treasure hunters! This St. Patrick’s Day activity STEM challenge is tons of fun, and you’ll love the cooperative problem-solving your students display!


Working against a criteria & constraints list, students create a design to extract leprechaun gold from a safe distance away!

In the St. Patrick's Day activity STEM Challenge, Get the Gold, students create a design to extract leprechaun gold from a safe distance away!

Materials for St. Patrick’s Day Activity: Get the Gold

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  • 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)
  • Scissors
  • Bags to collect gold (1)
  • Ruler/measuring tape
  • Design analysis handouts (included)


Suggested materials for St. Patrick's Day Activity STEM Challenge, Get the Gold

Video Walk-through

I could write it all down, but you’ve probably already had a long day.  So, wouldn’t it be nicer to just sit back and watch? I’ve found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is the best/fastest way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about the St. Patrick’s Day activity and STEM challenge, “Get the Gold”.  However, if you prefer to read, you’ll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.

Are There Other St. Patrick’s Day Activities & STEM Challenges Like This?

Of course! I can’t help myself! You’ll find all five of the St. Patrick’s Day activity STEM challenges 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 St. Patrick’s Day activity, Get the Gold, alone (top left) or in a bundle of 5 St. Patrick’s Day STEM activities (top right). You may also like the Planetopia Project STEM Challenge Bundle & the Spring & Easter STEM Challenge Bundle. Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students’ work on Facebook & Instagram!

In the St. Patrick's Day activity STEM Challenge, Get the Gold, students create a design to extract leprechaun gold from a safe distance away!

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Video Transcription

Hi, welcome to the third in the Saint Patrick’s Day STEM challenges. This one is called Get the Gold, and as you probably figured out, we need to get the gold from the leprechaun, and get it for ourselves. Before I get ahead of myself, 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.

First thing you need to decide is the size of your pot of gold. If you’re going to use one for the whole class, then get a big one. If you’re going to have individual groups have their own pot of leprechaun gold, you can use these small bowls, or even, you can use these small bathroom cups, and then, another option is if you did the Guard the Gold challenge that I talked about last time, and I’ll link that here, you can have students design a tool in order to get the gold from one of those other groups, or even, their own groups designed from last time.

Criteria and constraints are pretty simple here. We’re trying to get as much gold as we can in as little time as possible. I usually set the time at 30 seconds, and you get as much gold as you can in that time period, and then, the main constraint is that no part of you can be within 12 inches of the leprechaun gold, but once you get it outside of that radius, then it’s okay to touch. Now, for younger students, I might create a story around that and say it’s because the leprechaun magic works on the gold within that 12-inch radius, and if you touch it within that 12-inch radius, it will disappear.

Now, the leprechaun magic thing feels maybe a little too cute for older students, so for them, I would say, “You need to avoid detection,” or, “The leprechaun maybe has booby traps set around that radius.” And you can make up your own or you can skip that altogether. I just like throwing a little bit of a story in.

For increased difficulty on this, you can increase the radius that the students need to stand away from the leprechaun gold. You can add fool’s gold as decoys in with the real gold, and you could do that with like cotton balls, or plastic beads, or even, identify one of the candies as decoy. You can treat decoy gold one of two ways, when the students are actually testing out their designs.

The first is, if you accidentally get a piece of decoy gold, you have to return all of the other gold, the entire bucket back, and start again, and another thing you can do is just count it as a negative, so for every decoy piece of gold you get, you have to give back one regular piece. Sort of like positive and negative numbers. You can require examples of certain simple machines.

You can require that the design work on gold in different locations, so rather than just the pot, maybe the pot is around a corner, or perhaps you have the gold flat on the ground.

Using one pot of gold for the whole class, you can introduce an obstacle, so you can take a ruler or a yardstick, and just sort of rhythmically create rainbows over that gold, and they have to work around that obstacle.

To measure results depends on which type of pot of gold that you chose. If each group has its own leprechaun gold to work with, then I would simply use a timer for 30 seconds, and let each student in that group try out the design for 30 seconds, and they can take their results as the total number of gold pieces they acquired in their team, once everyone had a chance, or they can take it as an average.

A big pot of gold for the entire class, depending on how big it is, you could have one or more students from different teams come up, and go in rounds, where your given, again, 30 seconds each. Make sure that you do enough rounds that every student gets an opportunity.

To extend on this one, one thing you can do is repeat the challenge, using a different size pot of gold, because a design that works well on something this large, might not do as well on something like this, or something like this. You can have students weigh their gold, and then, compare that to the value of actual gold, and calculate what would their pot of gold be worth in dollars.

You use decoy gold, this is a great chance to either introduce or review adding and subtracting with integers. You can use this as an opportunity to kick of studies on the gold rush. You could also study the periodic table of elements or rocks and minerals, and have students research and find out why is gold so valuable in the first place. You’re ready to do this on your own, but as always, you want to check out the resource, because there are a lot of extra goodies.

This time-saving 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 have been done. You’ll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM Challenge How-to videos to get help you get the most from each challenge, and the Get the Gold 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, 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 set of group discussion questions. In the Extension Handouts, you’ll find math practice for identifying even and odd numbers, applying divisibility rules in two levels of difficulty, and a word problem template. You’ll also get shamrock writing, and process flow templates. This resource is available individually, and as part of a discounted Saint Patrick’s Day, and Mega STEM Challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

Be sure you do not forget to like and subscribe. I’m gonna be back next week with one of my all-time favorites, St. Pat’s Snake Snatcher. Have a great week. See you next time.

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