A Fun Holiday STEM Project

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Holidays are right around the corner and schools are soon going on a winter break. Whether you are baking cookies, decorating your home, or shopping for family and friends, you can keep the little ones focused by engaging them in your holiday activities. Add a bit of inquiry to your activity, and it will excite them even more. You can even help them refresh their Math /Science skills or pick up a new skill along the way.

Building a Gingerbread House is a fun STEM holiday project that will help you and your little one spends quality time together. The bonus – they’ll be learning while you both have some fun!

Gingerbread House/Community

Making Gingerbread houses might already be a part of your holiday tradition. You can easily convert this into a STEM project using the tips below.

Whether you have an early elementary student or a teenager, building a gingerbread community is easily adaptable to kids of all ages. You can make it simple or complex based on your children’s ages and the time you want to invest. It is entirely up to you.

Supplies for your gingerbread house

Supplies are relatively simple, inexpensive, and adaptable to your family’s preferences. Here is what you will need to gather before you begin.

Edible Items:

  • Graham crackers
  • Various candies and decorations
  • Serrated knife to cut graham crackers
  • Super Strong Icing  
  • Food Colors
  • Coconut powder for snow

Non-Edible Items:

  • Painted pinecones & hot glue gun for a garden
  • Graph paper
  • Pen and paper for calculations
  • A base for your build, a plate for smaller houses or a piece of cardboard covered in foil for larger structures

 

Plan, Build, Test & Improve

We all follow these steps without even knowing that they are core design principles of the engineering process.

Start the project by asking your kids a simple question “Where should we start”? Listen to their ideas and lead them to the Planning step.

If your child does not understand the importance of planning, it is important to explain why it is crucial for any project. This is a great opportunity to share some of your life lessons with them. Was there a time that failing to plan led to problems for you? Or perhaps there is an example of a success you can share that came from attention to this vital step?

Step 1: Planning is where the fun with Math begins

It’s time to start dreaming about the gingerbread house. Ask your kids what they would like to have in their Gingerbread community– houses, pets, pool, train station, playground, etc.

Let them be creative and think about all the possible ideas. Don’t worry about whether they can build them all or not at this stage. Let their creative juices flow.

Once they finish brainstorming ideas, encourage them to draw or design them. Having visuals will help them better plan and figure out the build later.

Integrated Learning Ideas for Planning Step

  • Middle/High School Kids
    • Design the community on a graphing paper with an approximate scale (based on material available)
    • Determine the floor plan’s area and perimeter. This will guide you in determining how many graham crackers you will need to build the structure
    • SkillsYouNeed.com provides step by step guidance on Calculating Area and Calculating Perimeter for the various shapes you are working with
    • During the planning stage, decorations are also important. Carefully determine which candies will go where and how many will be needed to cover the required areas. Refer to calculations on area.
    • Resources: 20+ Ginger Bread Templates
  • Elementary Kids
    • List different things you see in a community
    • Pick a few from the list and draw and color on a paper
    • What type of supplies might you need to build those things in your gingerbread community?
    • How do the people in your gingerbread community celebrate the holidays?
  • Pre Elementary Kids : Ask the questions and you can list and draw for them
    • What do you want to have in your community?
    • What color do you want your house to be?
    • What shapes can you find in a house?
    • What’s the weather like where your community is? Is it always cold at Christmas everywhere in the world?

 

Step 2 & 3 : Building is where the plan comes to life and the math gets tested

Start your build with smaller structures first to test your plans. This phase is often called the pilot phase, where your idea gets tested before you scale it up.

Glue the pieces carefully with icing and make sure the structure is stable before you add decorations. Below is a sample guide on how you can divide build activities with children of different ages.

Patient and perseverance are the keys to success. Kids often get frustrated when the structure collapses. Share your own life experiences to boost their patience e.g. a cooking/baking situation where you had to try multiple times to get it perfect.

Integrated Learning Ideas for Build & Test 

  • Middle/High School Kids can be responsible for
    • Instructing younger ones on what pieces are needed and how many based on calculations
    • Cutting and icing the structures one at a time
    • Engage younger ones in planning what decorations can go where and placing the completed structures in the community
  • Elementary Kids can be responsible for
    • Testing the structure and its readiness for decorations
    • Plan and organize decorations
    • Assist younger ones in decorating
    • Placing the structures in the community for drying
  • Pre Elementary Kids can be responsible for
    • Sharing ideas
    • Counting and sorting
    • Making sure every member receives the necessary materials
    • Decorating the candy by following instruction

You can easily divide the build & test phase into multiple days. You can also discuss what went well and can be improved the following day based on how the activity went. It helps kids learn from their mistakes and improve their build process.

Step 4: Improve

Improve your community by adding additional structures, a garden, or even some snow.

Younger kids can paint the pinecones and the older kids can hot glue them around the community as a borderline.

Have younger kids sprinkle the coconut powder around the community if you like the snow-covered look on streets, in the garden etc.

Step 5: Show off your hardwork

Share your family project on social media and celebrate!

It is a perfect time to introduce computers, the internet, cyber safety, or social media concepts. Ask kids how they can easily show off their project to friends and family.

Integrated Learning Ideas for Build & Test 

  • Middle/High School Kids
    • What is social media? what sites do you know?
    • Show me how you would edit this picture or video of your creation before posting it?
    • (PS: a great opportunity to observe what they are doing already on social media and who they take to?)
  • Elementary Kids
    • How can we share the project easily with friends?
    • How can we share the project idea to other kids in the world?
    • How did people share their work before computers and internet?
  • Pre Elementary Kids
    • Taking pictures
    • What is a computer and why we need it?

 

We want to see your masterpieces! Be sure to tag us on social media @s2stem and let us know how the build went.

 

The world we live in is filled with Math, Science & Technology. Whether you are baking cookies, paying for groceries or finding something on the internet, parents can help kids connect Math and Science with the real-world. The opportunities are limitless. All we need to do as parents is keep increasing their curiosity through engagement, interaction, and inquiry.