Thanksgiving STEM Projects


November 13, 2023
turkey made with food

There are so many engaging Thanksgiving STEM projects to use with your students or children, building their math, logical thinking, collaborative and creative skills while having a lot of hands on fun! Here are a few of my favorites. Also see my post, Free Thanksgiving Math Resources, for additional ideas.

Cranberry Structures

Build 2D and 3D shapes from fresh cranberries and toothpicks. ( image from Little Bins for Little Hands; the idea is also explained at Thanksgiving Engineering.)

Mayflower Boat Challenge

Build the Pilgrims a Boat STEM Challenge has students create aluminum foil boats to transport Pilgrims (she is a homeschool parent that painted wooden peg people Pilgrims complete with hand cut outfits, but of course you don’t have to go that far unless you want to!). The post includes full instructions and a free printable recording sheet.

Don’t want to use a tub of water? Here’s a blog post from Math Chick about a 5th/6th grade math teacher who had her students blow their paper sailboats down the hallway with a fan. They then measured how far each boat traveled and made a scatterplot!

Image from Math Chick

Build a Pilgrim Shelter

Build a Pilgrim shelter that will withstand rain, snow and wind. Buy lesson plan and handouts at Teachers Pay Teachers here or just give students materials and let them try!

Image from Teachers Pay Teachers, Kerry Tracey Feel Good Teaching

great historical info about the real Pilgrim homes here

Thanksgiving Dinner Table STEM

Design and construct a dinner table made from only dominoes and popsicle sticks that will hold the most food (you could test weight with any manipulative or use paper food to test surface area). You could easily use this challenge to teach/reinforce the concepts of perimeter, area, and surface area.

**You can buy a Thanksgiving STEM Challenge Bundle from Brooke Brown on TPT (currently $10) from Brooke Brown (Teaching Outside the Box.) The bundle has detailed classroom lesson plans, Google slides, anchor charts, QR codes, rubrics, etc. for her versions of the Mayflower boat and dinner table challenges as well as a turkey hideout challenge. However, I generally use STEM more informally with my students, just giving them instructions and supplies and having them record in STEM journals.

Here’s a dinner table image from the bundle.

Candy Corn or Acorn Catapults

Use the basic popsicle stick catapult design from Little Bins for Little Hands or give your kids craft supplies and let them design their own catapults to launch candy corn or acorns. I got the basics of catapult making from the Catapult Challenge post at Vivify STEM (written for middle school students but my elementary students were able to do it.) Supplies to choose from included newspaper, craft sticks, masking tape, plastic cups, soda and soup cans, rubber bands, plastic spoons. It was really fun to see what they came up with. Some of the catapults were huge! We tested them, measured the distance with a measuring tape and graphed the results. 

Turkey Circuit Dough

Find instructions to make your light up turkey here. (link also includes a turkey paper rocket and a coding game)

Other Thanksgiving STEM Challenge Ideas

Thanksgiving turkey cage challenge

Image from Mombrite

Create a model of a Thanksgiving Day Parade float

Create a free-standing turkey that has a head, body, tail feathers , feet and a beak.

Create a free standing scarecrow.

Make a baking soda and vinegar volcano inside a hollowed out pumpkin. Experiment with the ratio of baking soda and vinegar (very natural way to introduce that math vocabulary term)

Image from Little Bins For Little Hands

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