November 23, 2016

Christmas/Winter STEM Challenges: Candy Cane Calamity

Christmas STEM Challenge: In Candy Cane Calamity, students design the lightest-weight shipping container that will protect candy canes from damage. Comes with modifications for grades 2-8.

Congratulations, teachers! You are almost to a beautiful, well-deserved break, but getting to that finish line can be its own impossible challenge! The kids' brains are toast, and (likely) so is yours!  But because you are a responsible adult, you don't want to throw in the towel too early and risk wasting instructional time, am I right?! The good news is, you don't have to!  STEM challenges will get you to the finish line in style, and it's fun for your kids that you can feel really good about!


In Candy Cane Calamity, students design the lightest-weight container possible they can "ship" two candy canes in without damaging the candy canes.

Where Can I Find Out More?

As you may already be aware, I've found creating video walk-throughs of my STEM challenges is a great way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, and more! Check out the video below to learn more about Candy Cane Calamity. However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.

Are There Other Challenges Like This?

Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 for Christmas/Winter. You can find the overview of each on this blog post. This is the first of the individual posts, and one will follow each week through Dec. 22, 2016. Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram if you want to give me a smile this holiday season!

You can find even more STEM challenges in my Mega Bundle, on this blog, and on my YouTube channel!

Video Transcription

Hi there. Welcome to the first week of the Winter and Christmas STEM Challenges. Week one, Candy Cane Calamity. The purpose for this one is the students are going to design a package to ship candy canes and they're trying to get the lightest weight package that gets the candy canes there undamaged. Before I go any further, let’s take a quick look at the materials and the STEM Challenge Cycle.

This is the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every challenge. I've defined each step in another video. I've added a pop-in card to that video here as well as a link in the description.

A quick note about materials, if you prefer to use cookies, you can substitute that and make a Cookie Calamity Challenge.

I usually two candy canes for group but you're gonna want to have some extra on hand in case some come to you damage or in case students accidentally damage them while they're testing out their designs. You're also going to want to remove those candy canes from whatever packaging they come in before the challenge so that students don't just copy whatever the packaging materials are that were used.

The students will be recording the total weight of the package and whether or not there was damage to the candy canes. And we're looking for the lightest weight package that results in absolutely no damage to those candy canes.

So students will create whatever design they like and they will put it inside a lunch bag and that is their shipping container. And they'll probably choose to add some other materials in there to keep the candy canes nice and safe. And then once they have the candy canes in the shipping container, they can either tie off the bag or just use a piece of tape. Then they're gonna weight the container. Mine is forty grams. This is where the fun part comes in. They need to then ship their containers. Now what you can do is either just do a desk drop so that this is the height of the desk and I just drop it on the floor from there. You could also do rolling it down the stairs or tape off a line in the distance and students have to toss it over that line.

Whatever process you choose for shipping, just make sure you share that with the students before they begin the design process so that they're aware exactly what their package is going to face so that they can design something that will keep the candy canes safe.

Once the packages have been through the shipping process, the students will then remove their candy canes from the package and exam them closely to determine if there's any damage or any breaks.

Looks like they made it. If you're looking for ways to make this a little bit more challenging for older students, you can increase the number of candy canes that the students need to ship. You can also choose a rougher shipping method like rolling it down the stairs or even sort of bowling it over a distance. And another thing you can do is have consecutive iterations where students have to reduce the weight of their package by a certain percentage. So whatever it is, mine was forty grams, in the first challenge. Maybe the second iteration I could only have 75% of that weight. So I would have to be able to make it thirty grams or less.

Since this is a challenge about not breaking the candy canes, it seems to be a natural extension here that you could talk about the difference in physical changes and chemical changes. Another great extension on this would be to research different shipping methods and maybe even hold a competition to see who can get the package guaranteed by Christmas in the cheapest way possible.

This was pretty straight forward you have all the basics already but as always, there is more. Check out the resource.

This resource contains everything you need to guide your students through the Candy Cane Calamity challenge including modifications for use for second to eighth graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials of course but the hard parts are done. You'll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM challenge professional development videos to help you get the most from each the challenge and the Candy Cane Calamity Materials list. In Teacher Tips you'll find setup, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the Criteria and Constraints list, measuring results and cross-curricular extension suggestions. You'll find an editable Criteria and Constraints list so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For Student Handouts there are two versions. Four-page expanded room for response for younger students and a two-page condensed paper saver version. You'll also find a set of group discussion questions. In the Extension Handouts, you'll find a shipping research page exploring physical and chemical changes, notes and practice with answer key, as well as math extension and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Winter/Christmas and Mega STEM Challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

Thanks so much for checking out this video. This is a really fund challenge and it's also really practical. Make sure that you like and subscribe. I will be back next week with reindeer relay. See you next time.

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