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Christmas STEM Activities for High School

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 15 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Students love to experiment with hands-on designing tasks. The activities offered here are STEM-based and Christmas-themed for collaborative, engaging work.

High School STEM Activities - Christmas Theme

Christmas is a time of year when students seem to lose focus easily. Keeping your students on task and engaged can be difficult when all they can think about is the coming school holiday. Even older students, like high schoolers, have this 'holiday-itis' syndrome.

The activities offered here will give your high school students engaging STEM activities related to Christmas. By focusing your students on the object of their desire (Christmas break), you will capture their attention and motivate them to fully participate in the activities.

Milk from Afar

This activity will have your students designing and experimenting with straws.

Materials

  • Straws
  • Tape
  • Cups
  • Water
  • Measuring tape

Instructions

  • Divide your class into small groups.
  • Give each group a large set of straws.
  • Give your students the scenario:
    • Santa is on a tight schedule. Sometimes families do not leave the milk right next to the chimney. Santa doesn't have time to walk across a room to get the milk, so he wants you to design a long-distance straw for him. How long can you make a working straw?
  • Give your groups a few minutes to brainstorm ideas prior to experimentation. Have them consider:
    • How many straws will be too many?
    • What factors contribute to the straws effectiveness as it is lengthened?
  • When they are ready, have your students begin to experiment with building a long straw out of the regular straws they have been given.
  • Remind them to have a group member hold the cup with water, so there are limited water accidents during the experimentation phase.
  • Have your students measure their working attempts.
  • Afterward, have a class discussion on what worked and what didn't.
    • How long was the longest working straw?

No Simple Solution

The beauty of design is the focus of this activity.

Materials

  • Grid paper
  • Pencil
  • Example (video or image) of a Rube Goldberg Solution

Instructions

  • Ask your students to offer ideas about the easiest Christmas related task. You might get examples like:
    • Hanging stockings on the chimney
    • Putting decorations on the tree
    • Building a snowman
    • Spraying fake snow on the window
  • Choose the easiest/simplest task offered as the target task of this activity.
  • Divide your class into pairs (or allow them to work independently if desired).
  • Now, show the Rube Goldberg solution example and have a quick discussion of how Rube Goldberg solutions are insanely complicated methods of doing incredibly easy tasks.
  • Instruct the pairs to design a Rube Goldberg machine to accomplish the simple task chosen by the class.
    • Remember, the design must be incredibly complicated.
    • The design also must be plausible (if not practical).
  • Pairs should draw out their design and well as write a list of actions/steps involved in their process.
  • Allow time for the pairs to present their design to the class.

Extension

  • This activity can be extended into a long-term project by instructing the pairs to actually build their designs.

Down the Chimney

This hands-on activity will have your students fully engaged while they launch mini-presents around the room.

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