Hi friends! I don’t know about you, but if I see (and by see, I mean eat) one more piece of chocolate I will be made an honorary member of the cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Seriously, Halloween is great, but when it is over, it is over! With a little breathing room between now and Christmas, it’s the perfect time to look at Holidays Around the World STEM activities!
I have seven holidays and seven STEM activities just for you! Ready?
Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights, is celebrated by Jewish people in November or December for eight days and eight nights. This year, for Hanukkah, challenge your students to make a dreidel. A dreidel is a top-like toy played with by Jewish children for hundreds of years. The lyrics of a well-known Hanukkah song are about making a dreidel out of clay. Unlike the song, your students will not be making their dreidels from clay however, but out of a Styrofoam block, a pencil, and a marker and it must spin for several seconds. Be sure to have a copy of the rules for the dreidel game and maybe some chocolate “gelt” because once they get their dreidels spinning, they will want to play for real (If you need the rules you can find them here.)!
Chinese New Year is observed in January or February depending on the new moon. The dragon is a very important part of the Chinese culture, representing wisdom, power and wealth. The Dragon Dance performed on Chinese New Year is said to scare away evil spirits. American children are enthralled with dragons, too. From Puff the Magic Dragon to the Dragon Master Series, dragons of all shapes and sizes perpetuate the possibility of magic happening. Your students will love being challenged to create and build a dragon of their own using red cups, paper fasteners, colored paper, and skewers.
Diwali is a Hindu holiday observed for five days and nights. Like Hanukkah and Chinese New Year, it is a moveable holiday, falling on different dates each year. The Diya, an oil lamp made of clay or brass, is lit during Diwali. Challenge your students to design and build a replica of the Diya from 40 small building bricks and a tea light candle. If candles are not allowed in your school, you can easily get battery operated tea lights at the dollar store.
St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated in Sweden, Norway and parts of Finland on Dec. 13th and marks the beginning of the Christmas season for Scandinavian countries. It is said that St. Lucia wore a wreath of candles on her head to keep her hands free for carrying food to the persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs under the city. The St. Lucia STEM challenge is for your students to design and create a wreath that fits a child’s head from felt and pipe cleaners.
Kwanzaa is a cultural rather than religious holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. It is a rather new holiday originating in 1966 to celebrate and pay tribute to African culture. There are seven symbols associated with Kwanzaa, each representing one of the guiding principles of African culture. One of the seven symbols is the Kikombe cha Umoja or the Unity cup. For the Kwanzaa Challenge, present your students with the task of designing and building a Unity Cup from a toilet paper roll, paper cups and paint. The Kikombe cha Umoja must be able to hold liquid without spilling or collapsing. Once the students have completed the challenge, use this opportunity to promote unity within your classroom. Have your students sip from their Unity Cup then raise it and proclaim “Harambee,” which means “Let’s pull together”.
Cinco de Mayo or the Fifth of May celebrates a short-lived victory of the Mexican army over the French. Often mistaken for Mexican Independence Day (September 16th) it is celebrated more in America than Mexico. Many Mexican-Americans see Cinco de Mayo as a day to celebrate achievements of Mexicans living in the U.S. Places in the United States with large Mexican populations have great Cinco de Mayo celebrations with food, drink, music, and dancing. Maracas are used when playing both modern and traditional Mexican music. The Cinco de Mayo challenge is to design and build a maraca using a plastic bottle, toilet paper tube, colored paper, and rice. The maraca must stay intact despite vigorous shaking for one minute.
Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated by Christians worldwide. In addition to being a sacred religious holiday, Christmas has come to represent culturally a time of giving and caring about others by people of all denominations. Of the many symbols of the season, the Christmas tree is one of the most beloved. Large or small, real or fake, pine, fir, or faux, everyone has their favorite. This year, challenge your students to design and build their own Christmas tree using two cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, green and red paint, and to decorate it with a budget of $1000.
There you go! I hope these seven holiday challenges will keep you and your students busy, engaged and immersed in STEM!
Just like all my other STEM challenges, these holiday challenges contain student directions, photos of possible finished products, suggested materials, planning and reflection, and vocabulary worksheets. Additionally, for your convenience, I have added ways to modify the challenges, as well as the STEAM links and the Next Generation Science Standards covered.
You can purchase each of the holiday challenges individually or get them in this money-saving STEM Activities Bundle.
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