STEAM Lesson Plan: Candy Cane Calamity

Candy Cane Calamity: Grades 2-8

It’s almost time for winter break and chances are your students are having a hard time sitting in their seats and staying focused. Here’s a fun STEAM lesson plan to keep them motivated and focused while bringing in a little magic of the holiday season.

In this lesson, students will work in teams to design as light-weight a container as possible that will allow them to “ship” two candy canes without damaging them.

Materials Needed 

  • 2 candy canes per group (be sure you have extras in case of any break while they are making their shipping containers)
  • wooden craft sticks of various sizes (skinny popsicle sticks/thicker tongue depressor size/etc.)
  • pipe cleaners
  • cotton balls
  • marshmallows
  • scissors
  • tape
  • balloons
  • sandwich bags
  • any other soft materials you can think of!
  • paper bags
  • markers/stickers/crayons to decorate the bags

Preparation (before students arrive)

  1. Remove candy canes from any container they came in. You don’t want to unknowingly influence your students’ designs!

Opening Activity

  1. Ask students if they’ve ever received a package only to find out that the contents were broken (could also start class by showing opening to Ace Ventura):
  2. Tell students their mission is to create packaging that will allow two candy canes to withstand the perils of delivery and arrive unbroken, in the most light-weight container they can create.

Procedure

  1. Assign students to groups of four.
  2. Give students 15 minutes to build the most light-weight shipping structure they can create for their candy canes using the materials you’ve provided (students don’t have to use everything).
  3. Weigh their shipping method BEFORE they put it in the paper bag.
  4. Once the shipping method has been weighed, students will put their package in a brown paper bag and seal it. Students are welcome to decorate the bag before putting their package inside (great activity for teams who finish before other teams).
  5. Students will place candy canes in a bag and then candy canes will have to be “delivered.” This can be via a desk drop, stairway drop, or throwing across the hallway. Whatever your delivery method, however, make sure the students know this ahead of time, as that may help them plan their design!

Discussion

  1. Each group will have a chance to present their work, discuss their process, and give their weight before their package is “delivered.”
  2. Have students try to predict whether each team’s candy canes will break and why or why not.
  3. If you would like to continue this challenge, you can then have students whose candy canes broke re-work their design or, if the candy canes did not break, challenge them to create an effective shipping method that weighs even less (75% of the final weight, for example).

Note: As students work in teams, circulate the room to see how well they are working together. Are all students contributing? If not, ask students who are not working to make a suggestion for their team to try.