Holiday Winter Stem Activities
It’s the beginning of December, which means candy canes, cookies, hot chocolate, and lots of Science Stem activities to engage those middle schoolers before winter break. These stem activities will not only get your students thinking but will hopefully add some holiday cheer to your classroom as well.
Candy Cane Science
There never seems to be a shortage of candy canes this time of year. These two different cane activities are both fun and easy!
Dissolving Candy Cane Experiment
- mason jars
- candy canes (striped – if they’re all one color, the stripes will not disappear)
Procedure: Fill a jar with warm water. Place candy cane in water and predict how long it will take for the stripes to dissolve. After 60 seconds, remove the candy cane and see if there are still stripes. Repeat until the stripes are all gone recording your observations along the way
*You can also use oil, vinegar, club soda, juice, or any other liquid to also see how they affect the candy cane.
Bending Candy Canes
Bend and shape a candy cane to show a physical change in matter!
- candy cane
- parchment paper
- baking sheet
Procedure: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place unwrapped candy canes on the baking sheet. Bake for 3-4 minutes. Bend and shape the candy cane while it’s hot. The candy canes will cool quickly, so bend slowly. If it cools too quickly, place it back in the oven for another few minutes.
This density ornament activity helps students learn about density and how density as a property relates to how materials interact including how they float, sink, or separate. You will need plastic ornaments, cooking oil, water, and food coloring. You can also add Christmas items like glitter or bells. A dropper and funnel are helpful in filling the ornaments. Place ornaments in mason jars for support. Fill the ornaments halfway with oil and color and a small bowl of water with food coloring. Use a dropper to add water to the oil and watch what happens!
Milk Plastic Chemistry
Milk gets moldable with this chemistry activity! The reaction between warm milk and an acid (vinegar) causes the casein molecules to unfold and form long chains called a polymer. Perfect for molding into holiday ornaments! Click this link for a simple tutorial.
Your students don’t have to be in Chemistry to appreciate and enjoy this Chemis-Tree. Just print, cut, and go for this easy-to-assemble science-themed holiday decor for the classroom. Making a Chemis-Tree is a great way to review and reinforce element identification and is a quick way to liven up the classroom for the holidays. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to the placement or choice of the elements, just a few to help with the holiday spirit! Find this fun and engaging activity here.
Winter-Themed Stem Activities
Put your student’s crazy holiday energy to good use! Depending on the time you have to set aside for winter-themed stem activities, I’ve given you some projects that will not only challenge your students but will hopefully add some holiday cheer to your classroom as well. Three of the five activities in this download were added with the idea that students complete one activity a day, with the result being a Winter Wonderland Diorama.
Day 1: Ice Castles.
Day 2: Lights of a Northern Town (add Ice Castle when completed).
Day 3: Crystal Characters.
Day 4: Let It Snow (demo to be done by the teacher, but gives them some fake snow to add to their diorama).
Day 5: Operation Present Drop is just another fun challenge but has nothing to do with the diorama.
Find this fun, engaging activity here.
Another great way for students to learn about elements and their properties is to have students do a research project. Students pick an element and create an “ornament” that reflects the characteristics of that element. You can have them create one using different materials or use the element template. Click here to download a free pdf.
Ho-Ho-Holiday Music is always a hit!
Check out Scientific Songs of Praise on YouTube for a sciencey twist on some holiday favorites that will put you and your students in the holiday mood!
Happy Holidays and enjoy your well-deserved break!
Erica and the Nitty Gritty Science Team