Celebrating the holidays with a classroom party is a tradition in most elementary schools. Typically, the parties would mostly revolve around food and a possible craft or movie. The food generally consisted of cupcakes, candy and sweet drinks and, by the end of the day, our students were about vibrating as they left our classroom to go home.
Several years ago, we decided to change what we did at our parties and transform all of our special celebrations into STEM extravaganzas. The parties emphasized problem solving and collaboration with a holiday theme. Food became much simpler with a simple snack of fruit or pretzels, juice boxes or water. Occasionally, a fancier snack would be sent in; however, they often were much too busy and excited about their activity to spend a lot of time eating.
Our room parents loved this shift– no more staying up until midnight cutting out cookies to be frosted and covered by candy the next day. Parents were instead asked to donate a few simple materials that they already had or could easily pick up at the grocery store to be used in the challenge. Introducing the class to the chemical science of slime, a modeling putty formula, dry ice, or pretend snow was a popular party activity.
The kids loved it since they could spend an entire afternoon engrossed in fun science and engineering challenges. And our principals loved it as they would peek in on thoroughly engaged - and calm students.
Our STEM parties could be organized in one of two ways. First, the students could be presented with one large challenge that was adapted to fit the occasion. For example, students would build catapults that could throw candy pumpkins, heart shaped candies or marshmallow chicks, depending upon the holiday. Since the basic materials and challenge is the same, all we had to do is provide different candy launchers.
Likewise, students could build a gumdrop structure and, by supplying the appropriate colored gumdrops, the activity could be used for several different holidays. We would use black or orange for Halloween, red for Valentine’s Day and green for St. Patrick’s Day.
We also created specific lessons for specific holidays such as:
The other way that we have organized our party is to have 3-4 center activities that the students rotate through. Parent volunteers help facilitate the activities at the table. The activities would typically have a connection to something we’ve read or studied.
For example, our October holiday party would include activities that would go along with pirates since we were reading Treasure Island.
The activities included:
These are just a few of the lessons that we have available to help you plan a STEM party. Be sure to search our store under holiday categories.
Whether you do holiday parties, or want a special celebration “just because”, incorporating STEM will provide a fun and successful learning experience for your students that they will long remember.
We hope you and your kiddos “Get Caught Engineering® at a party.
Wendy and Cheryl