Thanksgiving STEM Activities

Nov 7, 2021 | Articles, Math Activities, Technology and Kids

Monday, November 8th is National STEM/STEAM Day, a day to increase people’s awareness of STEM (science technology engineering math) and expose kids to its glory! So the teachers of The Community Classroom couldn’t miss the opportunity to mix a few STEM design challenge activities with the fall theme…enter Thanksgiving STEM.

We’ve listed a few fall STEM activities below for you to try at home with your kids or in your classroom with your students. And if you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, these ideas could really engage your turkey day guests, no matter their age.

Below, you can watch the interview on Mass Appeal WWLP News Channel 22 that is based on this article (and enjoy the flying turkeys!).


Turkey Launch STEM Design Challenge

One of the beautifies of STEM is the open nature of the engineering design process. This activity has a lot of access points for kids to engage in the design process, no matter their age or their ability. We do recommend that there is some caregiver supervision if and when tools are used.

Materials:

A 3(ish) foot piece of scrap wood

Something to use as a fulcrum (we tried a large rock, an empty soda can, an empty orange juice container, and a few 3-4inch scrap pieces of wood

Screws (if using pieces of wood for fulcrum)

Something to launch as cargo (we used a plastic, inflatable turkey and an empty orange juice container)

Directions: 

Define the problem: Your challenge is to build a catapult to launch the turkey the farthest.

Develop a solution: Have your kids sketch out an idea. They could also do some research online on types of catapults, the parts of a catapult, and other physics concepts that could be important to their design).

Create a prototype: Let your kids create their first prototype! We played around with the fulcrum a bit before screwing anything together.

Test out your prototype: Try it out! See how your catapult launches. 

Reflect and retry: Ask the following questions: How did it work? What one thing might you change to make it work even better?

Change your prototype and test it out again! Reiterate, reiterate, reiterate.

Notes: 

We made three versions of the catapult when we began to prototype: one with the fulcrum flush to the arm of the catapult, one with the fulcrum perpendicular to the arm, and one with the fulcrum in the center of the arm versus more towards one end of the arm.

Trying this at your Thanksgiving dinner or with your class? We’ve compiled some PDFs for you here.

 

Cranberry Tower STEM Design Challenge

This activity is a twist on a design favorite: The spaghetti and marshmallow tower design challenge.

This is a great design activity that you can modify for any age child (or adult!).

Materials:

Cranberries

Toothpicks

Directions:

Define the problem: Your challenge is to build the tallest tower you can that will hold the plastic turkey. (or it could be building a house, creating letters or numbers…or have your children develop the design challenge!). You may want to give this challenge a time limit (we tried this challenge with a 7-minute time limit, but sometimes time limits can stress out kids and limit their creativity).

Develop a solution: Have your kids sketch out an idea. Or you can have them jump right into their prototype!

Create a prototype: Let your kids create their first design to try.

Test out your prototype: Try it out! See if each tower can hold the turkey. 

Reflect and retry: Ask the following questions: How did it work? What one thing might you change to make it work even better?

Change your prototype and test it out again. Reiterate, reiterate, reiterate.

Trying this at your Thanksgiving dinner or in your class? We’ve compiled some PDFs for you here.

 

If you are interested in other activities that you can try at home or with your class:

 

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