Santa STEM fun!
I got to try out my Sled for Santa STEM Challenge for an enrichment class at a local private school, and I thought I would share with you how it went!
The challenge is to create a sled for Santa that will travel the fastest down the slide.
I just got out a few bins of random STEM building materials. I collect corks and plastic lids. (Doesn’t everyone?) So I brought those out along with pipe cleaners, straws, clothespins, popsicle sticks, card stock, and a few other bits and pieces. And tape. Definitely tape.
The great thing about the project is you can really anything. Literally raid the recycle bin. Or have students bring in items from home. I limited them to 5 different materials.
If you are short on materials, you could limit them to one piece of card stock and some tape. Really, the materials don’t matter as much as the thinking involved!
The challenge is to send the sleds down the playground slide. While they were designing the students wanted to be able to test indoors. So we set up an extra table. It worked pretty well! It was not as slippery as the slide and the angle wasn’t the same, but it would make a great substitute if you can’t go outside or if others are on the playground and you don’t want to commander the slide or if it’s too cold or rainy or snowy to go outside.
Yes, it turned into an obstacle course complete with a sandpaper trap.
And a ski jump.
Here are some of the designs that students came up with:
(Don’t you love the Santa? I purchased this Lego Advent Calendar (affiliate link) for my own kids and borrowed Santa for the activity! He was too perfect not to! But don’t worry, if you don’t have a tiny Santa, you can use an eraser, clothespin, or any other small item .)
We went outside and tested them on the slide for the final test. We measured the time that they traveled down the slide. Our slide is small, and each one took between 0.94 and 1.18 seconds!!! You will definitely need a stopwatch. (I used my phone).
It turned out to be a great lesson in decimals when we were comparing the times. A common mistake that students make is to think that the highest number is the “winner,” when really, the smallest number is the fastest time.
If you are looking for this resource to use in your classroom, you can find it here:
(And if you purchased it last year, I made some major updates and added a rubric, parent letter, and extension menu, so be sure to download the newest version!)