I know you love infusing educational fun into every holiday, and this year is no different. I’ve got some fantastic Thanksgiving STEM activity ideas that are a blast but still sneak a little learning into the mix. So, if you’re a fellow teacher or a homeschool mom looking for cool activities to do with the kiddos, you’re in for a treat. In this blog post, I’ll be dishing out some brilliant Thanksgiving STEM activity ideas that are perfect for your students. Get ready to combine turkey, traditions, and technology for an educational feast!
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What are Thanksgiving STEM Activities?
If you are new here and to the world of STEM, you may be unfamiliar with STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Thanksgiving STEM activities are a great way to have scientific fun and celebrate the holiday. These activities are the perfect addition to your lesson plans before the break, plus they teach students to problem-solve and think critically and creatively.
Why Are Thanksgiving STEM Activities So Cool?
Thanksgiving STEM challenges are a perfect opportunity for kids of all ages to learn, experiment, and have a blast. They can be done at school or homeschool, and you can even tailor them to different grade levels. The best part? These hands-on Thanksgiving STEM projects are so much fun for your students.
Characteristics of a STEM Lesson
- Students solve a real-world problem.
- Students use the engineering design process to help solve the problem.
- Students are immersed in inquiry and open-ended exploration.
- Students work in teams.
- Students apply math and science to solve their problems.
- Students are allowed to come up with multiple answers, and failure is encouraged.
Disguise a Turkey Thanksgiving STEM Challenge
In this challenge, Turkey is in big trouble: It’s Thanksgiving, and he’s the main course. You will help Turkey by creating the best disguise to help throw Farmer Jack off his scent. Use what you know about the characteristics and traits of animals to help you. This is a fun activity your students will love!
The purpose of the challenge is for students to understand animal traits, camouflage, and mimicry. Students must build background knowledge about their animal type before beginning their design. Have students explore books or search the Internet for traits, habitats, and types of animals to learn more about. Once they know more about their animal, they will use the design process to plan their challenge.
Students disguise their turkeys by using the materials available. Some of the materials we use are
- Pipe cleaners
- Cotton balls
- Squiggly Eyes
Here is an example of a finished product:
Instant Download for this Challenge
If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to develop your lessons, you can find this challenge here. It is available as an instant download. It comes with instructions, a materials list, and graphic organizers. These can be a real time-saver, especially if you’re short on time.
STEM Activity Teacher Tips
Some STEM activities take time, so I schedule my STEM days for Friday. This unit takes an entire month to complete if teaching weekly
- Build background (Ask)
- Design (Imagine and Plan)
- Create & Test
- Evaluate (Improve and Reflect)
Avoid giving students directions on challenges. Monitor the room and ask questions to lead students to think through their design and creation.
Students need opportunities to persevere and learn how to think critically. They also need to understand how to talk themselves through problems and ask questions through the process.
If you’d like more information about how this looks in the classroom, please download my free digital download about how I find the time to implement STEM projects.
Here are more of my favorite Thanksgiving STEM activities that even the littlest engineers can enjoy. You’ll need basic materials like construction paper, craft sticks, popsicle sticks, and glue. These activities are perfect for elementary students in grades Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade.
Turkey Feathers Challenge
Build a turkey’s tail feathers using craft sticks, construction paper, and glue. See how tall you can make your turkey’s tail without falling over.
Turkey Nest Challenge
Build a sturdy nest for your turkey using sticks and glue. Can it hold a few chocolate eggs without breaking?
Turkey Trap Challenge
Can you make a turkey trap? Use toothpicks, marshmallows, and a turkey template to trap your turkey.
Turkey Baster Relay Race
In this challenge, you’ll need a few turkey basters and a timer. See how quickly you can move water from one container to another using only the turkey basters.
Create a volcanic eruption using a small pumpkin, baking soda, and vinegar.I like to use the pumpkins we carved for Halloween.
Scratch Jr. Coding
Retell Thanksgiving stories using Scratch, Jr. If you haven’t ever tried Scratch, Jr. and have an iPad, you will love it so much.
Hot Chocolate Science Experiments
Use packages of hot chocolate, mugs, and a timer to see how long the chocolate dissolves in different hot water temperatures. Have students predict which one will dissolve the fastest and why. Then, have them record their results and discuss.
Focused Science Thanksgiving Activities
Newton’s Laws with Turkey Races
Explore Newton’s laws of motion by creating little turkey racers. Attach feathers to them and let them zoom around to see the laws. Here is a great DIY kit. This looks like so much fun, and I think I might try it with my grandson.
Homemade Butter Experiment
Did you know you can make homemade butter with heavy whipping cream, a jar, and a little shaking? Learn about chemical reactions while making a tasty treat for your Thanksgiving dinner.
Dugout Canoes Challenge
Learn about Native Americans and their incredible engineering skills. Build miniature dugout canoes using craft materials. How well do they float in a bowl of water?
Adorable Light-Up Turkey
Craft a turkey with an adorable twist – it can light up! Learn about electrical circuits and engineering design as you create your light-up turkey using LED lights, batteries, and craft materials.
Other Creative STEM Activities
These activities would be fun for independent work students could do during center time.
- Make Goal Posts with Cubes and play paper football
- Add a few STEAM activities, and allow students to draw Thanksgiving characters
- Have a magnifying glass available for students to examine fall leaves, pine cones, and other things found in nature during the fall
Have a Fun Thanksgiving Day
So, as you gear up for the holiday lesson planning, don’t forget to add a little fun and learning with these challenges. They’re the perfect way to celebrate this special time of year, build critical thinking and problem-solving skills
With these activities, you can explore the world of science, technology, engineering, and math. From constructing turkeys in disguise to making homemade butter, you’ll have a blast learning important concepts. So, this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to add a sprinkle of STEM to your holiday fun!