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5 Activities to 'Engineer' Fun Before Winter Break

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The time period between Thanksgiving and Winter Break is always a challenge for students. Students are coming off a break and only have a few weeks until another one. There is anticipation for free time with family and friends. Most importantly, students want to sleep in and not wake up to alarm clocks and morning routines! It is natural for young minds to be focused on the glitz and glam of the holiday season.

Little do students know or realize that as teachers, we feel the same. We are trying to balance school life with gift lists, family visits, holiday parties, and Ugly Sweater contests. Usually report cards are due before the holidays or right after, so teachers are trying to make sure students are tested and assessments are in the grade book. The days are often long for teachers who are trying to maintain classroom control and keeping the attention of our students who would rather be eating candy canes!

So, it is two days before the winter break. There is not enough time to start reading a basal story nor do you want to have to force students to sit still. Teachers could put on a movie but don’t have the energy to quiet students. What can you do with your students?  

Time to design, build and create: 5 Can’t Miss Classroom Activities

Why not do an engineering activity? Yes, that is right! Allow your students the opportunity to design, build and create. Engineering exploration allows students to focus their endless energy with a fun, hands-on thinking activity. The following activities not only encourage students to collaborate but spark creativity.

1. Parachuting Polar Bear Challenge

Grade Level: any

Challenge: Build a cup tower and a parachute for the polar bear! Then have the polar bear, jump!

Material: plastic or paper cups, recyclable materials

Supplemental Slide Show

2. Winter Wonderland 3D Shapes

Grade Level: 2nd grade - up

Challenge: Build 3D shapes and a snowflake!

Materials: dots or gumdrop candies, toothpicks (rounded edges for younger students)

Supplemental Slide Show

3. Polly the Penguin Needs Help

Grade Level: any

Challenge: Help Polly the Penguin get down the icy mountain

Materials: use any recyclable materials you have, see slide show for ideas

Supplemental Slide Show

4. Do you want to build a snowman?

Grade Level: any

Challenge: Design the tallest snowman

Materials: bulletin board paper, ruler, tape

Supplemental Slide Show

5. Arctic Fox Family Needs a Home

Grade Level: any

Challenge: Build a house for the polar bear

Materials: marshmallows and pretzels

Supplemental Slide Show

These activities are fun and capture the essence of the season. Students can channel their excitement by completing these suggested activities.  Just remember an important part of the engineering process -- allow students to share what they create! In order for students to have a voice and know what they created is important, they need opportunities to share with their peers. Click here for engineering planning sheets based on age: Younger students, Older students

Follow Nikole on Twitter at @tdstech to gather additional ideas for integrating engineering into your curriculum.

Nikole Blanchard

Nikole Blanchard Director of Innovation and Technology at The Dunham School Twitter: @tdstech

Hard to believe it, but in 2003 Nikole Blanchard was part of a pilot program at Louisiana State University (LSU) where student teachers used laptops in the field. Nikole was blown away by the way students needs could be met with technology. Pursuing this interest, Nikole graduated from LSU with a Masters of Arts in Educational Technology. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Innovator, Apple Teacher, Swift Playground Teacher, Google Certified Trainer, PBS Learning Media Innovator and Microsoft Innovating Educator. Nikole is extremely passionate about networking and learning from other educators! She is the founder of a technology network in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is also a board member of Baton Rouge's Edcamp and Louisiana IT Symposium. Currently, she serves as a Playground Chair for the Global Collaboration PLN and is a member of the ISTE board. Nikole is the Director of Innovation and Technology at The Dunham School. Dunham has been recognized six consecutive years as an Apple Distinguished School. Through an exciting program, Nikole led 93 teachers to 100% Apple Teacher. A career highlight for Nikole was sharing the stage with Apple's CEO, Tim Cook in 2018. She told her technology story making history - the first time non-Apple employees spoke during an Apple Keynote. Nikole travels the world training teachers on technology and working with educators on one-to-one best practices. 

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