Gingerbread STEM Activities - Classroom Appropriate for the Holidays

Gingerbread Man Activities and STEM Challenges

Do you love the holidays but aren't sure how to bring a learning experience into a fun topic? One way to celebrate the season is with all things gingerbread! Even though I have a soft spot in my heart for the jolly bearded fella, I know it's not always easy to use certain themes in the classroom.

Do you have fond childhood memories of books where you got to choose what happened? I know I do. I would go back and read through all the possible endings just to make sure I got the best one (admit it, you did too).

I was thinking how FUN and ENGAGING it would be to alter a classic tale and let students choose how it unfolds? This STEM adventure starts with the story of the gingerbread man and turns it into a choose your own STEMventure activity. The gingerbread man meets a fox...will he survive? That depends on your students' choices (**spoiler alert** - the gingerbread man always survives, but they won't know that while choosing their adventure):

In this short storybook, the gingerbread man may need a zip line transport across a canyon, or he could need a tent for the night to stay alive. Here is a gingerbread man crossing a river to get away from the fox:
When the story is complete there are even a couple of bonus STEM challenges to complete. The gingerbread man finds himself among more gingerbread people and is so excited to have finally found a safe place where he won't be eaten. The gingerbread people decide they want to pursue the circus life. What gingerbread man wouldn't want to get launched from a catapult or slingshot? Move over, Cirque du Soleil...

The easy to follow booklet includes the engineering design process.

All your students have to do is follow the story, fill in the pages for the challenges they pick, and continue on with the story. This is even a great activity to send home over winter break if you know families will get involved. Click the image below to go directly to the resource on Teachers pay Teachers:

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I need more gingerbread it my life. Read on, my friend.

My teacher friend Amy and I were chatting about all things gingerbread. Do you know Amy? Her forte is social studies and writing.You are going to LOVE these gingerbread resources she put together. You can head over to her blog, Teaching Ideas 4U, to find out more about them. Two I know you'll love are this non-fiction gingerbread book report and this writing resource for character development:

It wouldn't be a gingerbread post without some recipe links! Here are some to try out, depending on what floats your boat. Do you like cookies? To build gingerbread houses? Do you like your gingerbread spicy, crunchy, or chewy?

Gingerbread Recipe Links
Genius Kitchen Gingerbread Cookies
King Arthur Flour Gingerbread Cookies
Eileen's Spicy Gingerbread Men Recipe
Spiced Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread House Recipe

Get crafty with a Thanksgiving turkey or bookmark!

Turkey Craft for Thanksgiving and Thankful Bookmark

A Thanksgiving turkey craft or a thankful bookmark are two fun hands-on ways to celebrate the holiday this season. I have created simple templates that are great for practicing fine motor skills.

The turkey thanksgiving craft includes everything you need to put together this gobble gobble cutie! Why not use it on your Thanksgiving kids' table as a centerpiece? If you have craft feathers, feel free to use them as well.

I have outlined all the steps with photos so that you know exactly how to put it together.

Students Can Be Thankful this Thanksgiving

This is the perfect time of year to reflect on the things we are thankful for. It's a good habit for kids to get in as well, but it can feel overwhelming if they don't know where to start. I created this Thankful Craftivity Bookmark as a guided way for kids to explore who and what they are thankful for. It makes a perfect bookmark!

Not only does the Thanksgiving Activity Bundle include the above activities, it includes so many fun and cross-curricular activities for kids in K-2. Label the turkey, do math and ELA activities, and learn about the first Thanksgiving.

 Click this link to go right to the Thanksgiving Activity Bundle:

STEM Activities for Thanksgiving - Pilgrim and Wampanoag Challenges

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to try three themed STEM challenges for both the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people! I have come up with STEM challenges to learn about tools used by each group of people, water vessels, and their homes. For the Wampanoag people, that means:
  • a bow (hello, elastic potential energy and kinetic energy),
  • a mishoon, and
  • a wetu
Before getting started, research the Wampanoag people. What materials did they use to make these? What were typical activities of Wampanoag adults and youth at the time they met the Pilgrims? Find out more about the Wampanoag and Pilgrims at the Plimoth Plantation website. Here is a link that describes their homes.

Gather basic materials. I always recommend using what you have. For a bow, a string and a bamboo skewer work well. For the mishoon, you may just want to use aluminum foil or clay, or perhaps if you are doing this at home with supervision you can use wood and carve out a real miniature mishoon. For the wetu, try paper or pipe cleaners.

If you can take this one outside to test it, your kids will be thrilled!
Another great one to bring outside if possible (remember to roll up sleeves).

A wetu sample.
For the Pilgrims, try these three:
  • a capstan (awesome if you are studying simple machines),
  • the Mayflower, and
  • a Pilgrim house
What were Pilgrims used to when they arrived? Were they able to create homes like they had before? Did they need to learn to use different tools and eat different foods? What would that have been like for them?
For this capstan, we used LEGOs and string to haul cargo over 2 feet vertically!
Design and create a mini Mayflower with plastic egg cartons, straws, and plastic bags.
Pilgrim houses were small. Try craft sticks or cardboard.
After trying two of these, kids can contrast and compare. Where did the people use each item? How was it important to their livelihood? What materials would you use now if making something similar?

I have created recording sheets and additional STEM challenge prompts you may find useful in this Thanksgiving STEM Bundle, available at Teachers pay Teachers:

In addition to the challenges shown above, there are also challenge cards for each set of people that allow for further exploration. Here is a photo of the Pilgrim cards:

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Thanksgiving STEM activities with Pilgrims and Wampanoag tools, structures, and more. | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Novels with STEM and STEAM

Novel Studies that Incorporate STEM and STEAM

I know it's not always easy to make time for STEM. That is why it's so beneficial to integrate STEM and STEAM into other subject areas you already have time allocated to. If you do read alouds with your students, why not really dive into the book and make the story come alive with STEM challenges?

Why Reading and STEM?

Maybe you aren't sold on STEM and STEAM education or you want to just stick with the novel studies you have done in the past. Maybe you want to try STEM but don't know where to start. So, where should you start? Start with a novel you love that integrates with STEM. In addition to needing strong literacy skills to succeed in STEM fields, you will also be able to reach kids who may not be all that interested in reading or books.

Stories Come Alive with STEM

Some of the lucky ones have a fabulous imagination and can picture anything in their heads. Others are a completely blank slate up in the old noggin' until they can touch it, feel it, experience it first hand. If you have any tactile learners, they will benefit enormously from hands-on STEM challenges where they can observe a physical manifestation of part of the story.

Teamwork and Growth Mindset with a Story

If you are reading a story where the character experiences a trying situation or there is room for improvement in some way, why not "choose your own adventure" by altering the story with a STEM challenge. Have the students brainstorm a way the character could have approached the problem differently in order to come out with a better solution, or how they might approach the problem differently in the future. How might the character benefit from a new perspective your students offer?

Some Novel STEM Ideas to Get You Started for 2nd - 5th Grade

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - create a wardrobe with a working latch

Charlotte's Web - create a spider web out of string

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle - design and create an upside-down house

The One and Only Ivan - design and create a domain for Ivan

Flora & Ulysses - design and create a comic strip or a stop motion animation film about Incandesto!

The BFG - design and create a suitcase

I have also created more in depth Novel STEM studies which I would love for you to explore. Blog posts about them can be found by clicking on the images below (The Wild Robot, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Hatchet, and Holes):

Do you have a favorite read aloud you keep coming back to? Let me know at and I will see what STEM challenges I can come up with for it!

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Novels and STEM - How you can try implementing a STEM challenge with your next read aloud or book club book. Ideas for popular read alouds for grades 2-5. | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

STEM Challenge for Fall - Create a Sports Dome

Sports STEM Challenge for Fall: Design and Create a Sports Dome

A math-centric STEM challenge that is fun to create on both a small and large scale: the geodesic dome!

Why try this challenge? I think this Venn diagram says it all:
On a slightly more serious note, this challenge requires patience to figure out but the reward is great. If you have a lot of space you can even have students create one large dome together and turn it into a reading nook or meeting space.

First, gather up the materials:

This project can be done in two ways - freestyle, or with the measurements provided to create the dome as shown.

What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, they will need to make measurements as well as work together with patience and perseverance.

Add more rigor into this activity with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of fall STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers:

STEM Challenge for Fall - Acorn Chute

Fun STEM Challenge for Fall: Design and Create an Acorn Chute

What a fun STEM challenge for kids! This challenge takes the idea of a roller coaster or slide to a new level because kids are working with non-uniform shapes.

First, gather up the materials:

You can have students gather fallen acorns or use craft acorns. In a pinch, you can substitute small balls or marbles, but one thing that makes this challenge unique is that the acorns don't roll as well as a perfect sphere. This is a great activity to discuss force and motion as well as friction and 3D shapes.

What skills do students work on? In addition to following the Engineering Design Process to complete this challenge, they will need to explore structural stability, repeatability, and will spend a good deal of time making modifications to get their chutes to work predictably.

Add more rigor into this activity with the STEM challenge resource (or get the pack of fall STEM challenges) on Teachers pay Teachers:

9 STEM Picture Books that Spark Imagination

STEM Books to Read to Young Kids to Spark Imagination

There are so many amazing and inspiring STEM books for kids; I am a little envious that these weren't around when I was a kid! Some of these you have probably heard of but I hopefully there are a few that are new to you that you can check out from your local library or add to your classroom bookshelves. These books were chosen in particular for their ability to stir the imagination in kids aged 3-6 through their vivid illustrations and touching stories.

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Building STEM Picture Books  - Just Right for Pre-K and Little Ones

1. Construction by Sally Sutton
There are several books in this series from Sally Sutton, so be sure to check them all out. This is a great book to introduce building concepts to little ones with bright and colorful illustrations and enticing vocabulary.

2. dreaming UP by Christy Hale
Build with blocks and see what they could become as full scale buildings and structures! This is an absolutely wonderful find for your students' first STEM class.

3. Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
This one is all about play, imagination, and of course, FUN! Kids will relate to Molly Lou and may be inspired to create some of their own toys to play with.

Inspiring and Story STEM Picture Books Featuring Girls and Women

4. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett
This is a great book if you are exploring Growth Mindset concepts or if you have kids that struggle with perfection. It's okay to make mistakes, and that is so important to understand when trying out STEM activities.

5. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
This wonderful story has sure gained in popularity since it debuted! One of my favorite stories on this list and sure to be yours, too. It will touch your heart and remind kids that sometimes the best improvement is to scrap what you had and start over.

6. Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan
Though Queen Victoria is not the one designing the machine, kids will love this book for it's quirky rhymes and illustrations, and for its wonderful ideas!

Tinkering STEM Picture Books

7. Coppernickel, the Invention by Wouter van Reek
This story is all about the KISS principle. KISS, or Keep it simple, sweetheart (I prefer sweetheart over stupid), is a very important thing to learn when dealing with STEM activities though often it takes a lot of elaborate failed designs to end up back at something simple. Tungsten the dog, has got this principle down and it is a learning opportunity for Coppernickel.


8. Papa's Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming
Talk about perseverance! Based on inventor Lodner Phillips, this book shares how even with an idea it may take several iterations to get a design just right. If you have any aspiring inventors, this is a book they will want to read again and again.

9. Awesome Dawson by Chris Gall
This is a fun book, akin to Molly Lou Melon, and one boys may better identify with as the title character is also a boy. This is a fantastic read to tie in to the idea of reusing and repurposing and is ideal for little ones.

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Clip art in above image from Photo Clipz