Thanksgiving STEM Activities

This month we have some fun Thanksgiving STEM / STEAM activities for you! That’s right… while the Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag people are typically associated with the study of history and culture, they also offer us lessons in agriculture, biology, geography, nutrition, and more.

Think about it…

What challenges did the Pilgrims face? Were they able to build homes like they had before? Did they need to learn to eat different foods? Where did they get their water? How did they adapt to a new landscape and climate? In what ways did they experiment and innovate?

The Pilgrims were the ultimate trailblazers for sustainable living, using locally sourced resources. And they did it all without fossil fuels!

First, they had to find a ship that wouldn’t sink and successfully navigate their way across the ocean to a new land.

Once there, they had to build their own shelters to protect against wind, rain, and snow, using materials that were available locally.

To survive, they had to find water and food (hunting, gathering), and grow crops (plant, irrigate, harvest).

After their basic needs were met, they finally had time for some fun and entertainment. Like the first Thanksgiving feast – the festivities lasted for three days!

To celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving STEM, we’ve put together a list of Thanksgiving STEM lessons and activities that the whole family can do together during the holiday break. From making fresh butter in a jar to building candy corn catapults, there’s plenty of fun here for all ages.

Build the Mayflower

Check out this Pilgrim Boat STEM challenge with a printable worksheet! Instead of just using plain tin foil, try using different materials (Popsicle sticks, milk cartons, Styrofoam) to craft a boat and see which floats the best. Or try a Thanksgiving Engineering Project that uses toothpicks and cranberries as the structure for a foil-covered ship.

Build a Wigwam

Get everyone thinking, designing, building, and problem solving! Materials ideas could include newspapers, Popsicle sticks, tree branches, construction paper, string, etc. Learn about sustainable building at the first Thanksgiving.

Natural and Recycled Materials

Sustainable living in true Pilgrim style: decorate with nature, use recycled tableware, and repurpose old clothing.

Homemade Bread and Butter

Bake a loaf of bread and learn about biology! While you’re at it, make some delicious homemade butter. (It will go from liquid whipping cream, to thick whipping cream, to butter as more air is added into the mix!)

Cranberry Science

Get hands on with cranberries! Investigate change, make cranberry STEM structures, and do a sink or float experiment. Fill a glass with some water and drop various nuts and small fruits in. Now try cranberries. Most small fruit like raisins and cherries sink, but cranberries float. Why is that? Slice a cranberry in half along its mid line. What do you see? Cranberries have four air pockets in them that give them buoyancy. (It also makes them easy to harvest because they float to the top of the cranberry bog.)

Candy Corn Catapults

Fling candy corn through the air with catapults built out of various household items. Each person in the family can build one and see who can get their candy corn to take the longest leap.

Food Preservation and Transportation

Without the teachings of the American Indians, it is likely that the Pilgrims wouldn’t have been able to maintain their settlements (or lives). For example, is well known that the Wampanoags taught the Pilgrims how and what to plant in their new environment. Explore food preservation and transportation techniques that were important at that time by learning how to dry fruits and how to build a dugout canoe with three Thanksgiving STEM activities.

Hand Turkey Geometry

Turn the classic trace-your-hand turkey art activity into an opportunity to study hand geometry and biometrics!

Bartering for Food

This looks like a fun activity – go to some local garage sales without any money and barter for food like Pilgrims and Indians!

Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

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