April 4, 2017

Spring / Easter STEM Challenge: Carrot Carriage

Carrot Carriage is a fan favorite STEM Challenge! Your students will use an unlikely set of materials to create a sweet, new ride for the Easter Bunny! (Read on for ways around the Easter connection!)

Spring or Easter STEM Challenge: In Carrot Carriage, students design a vehicle made primarily of carrots for the Easter Bunny. If you don't celebrate Easter, not to worry! Carrot Carriage can be for Cinderella (imagine Fairy Godmother ran out of pumpkins), or for anyone else who might need a ride! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.


Working against a criteria & constraints list, students design a vehicle made primarily of carrots for the Easter Bunny. If you don't celebrate Easter, not to worry! Carrot Carriage can be for Cinderella (imagine Fairy Godmother ran out of pumpkins), or for anyone else who might need a ride!

You can do this as an individual, partner, or group challenge (partners or groups are recommended).

Not pictured: straws, ramp, ruler

Where Can I Find Out More?

If you're familiar with me, you know I've been switching over to using video to explain the bulk of my challenges. It seems to be the best/fastest way to explain the important details: materials, set-up, tips, modifications, extensions, demonstrations, and more!  Who has time to read all that?! However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.

Check out the video below to see Carrot Carriage in action:

Are There Other Challenges Like This?

Of course! I can't help myself! I have created 5 challenges for Easter & spring (with plans for a few more coming soon)! You can find the overview of each on this blog post. These challenges will all post by April 9, 2017. Each challenge will be linked to the post linked above, so be sure to check back! 

Please reach out with any questions and tag me in photos of your students' work on Facebook & Instagram.

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


Spring or Easter STEM Challenge: In Carrot Carriage, students design a vehicle made primarily of carrots for the Easter Bunny. If you don't celebrate Easter, not to worry! Carrot Carriage can be for Cinderella (imagine Fairy Godmother ran out of pumpkins), or for anyone else who might need a ride! Includes modifications for grades 2-8.

Video Transcription

Hi, welcome back to the Easter and spring STEM challenges. Today we are going to be talking about carrot carriage. And this is a challenge where students are going to be making a vehicle primarily of carrots for the Easter bunny. Now, if you're not doing Easter in your classroom, you can still do this challenge. The carriage instead could be for Cinderella if the fairy god mother ran out of pumpkins or anyone else who might need a ride. Maybe this guy.

Let's take a moment to check out 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 few notes about materials. I would recommend using butter knives, they are gonna cut those carrots much easier for the students, but you'll need to check your school rules and make sure that that's not a violation. If you do end up going with the plastic knives on this, don't skimp and buy the cheap one, you're gonna want stronger ones with the teeth because the students are really gonna be sawing the carrots.

Now, missing in that photo that you just saw is a straw, really one or two per group should do. And as an option, you could also add long skewers or perhaps a narrow wooden gall. When you introduce this challenge to the students, before you start, you should definitely do a quick safety review. I would recommend taking a moment to demonstrate safe ways to puncture a carrot with a toothpick so you don't end up with any injuries and if you happen to have any thimbles around, especially if you have younger students, you might wanna consider bringing those in.

And yet another option if you have younger students is to ask parent volunteers to come in and to assist with the cutting. If you do have parent volunteers come in, just make sure you brief them ahead of time and let them know to wait for the students to tell them how they want the carrots cut. We wanna make sure that the students are designing carrot carriages, not the parents. And you're also going to need a ramp. I usually prefer to have just one ramp that all of the students use for testing so that you can really compare carriage against carriage.

And your ramps can be very simple. You can get a cereal box, you can prop up textbooks, or as you see here, I had just the box lying around and I used some plastic eggs to prop it up and it will make it a lot easier on the designs if your ramp actually has a nice slope that connects down to the table as opposed to too much of a jump.

The criteria and constraints are pretty simple in this one. The vehicle needs to roll down a ramp unassisted and it needs to hold cargo and contain that cargo inside. It can't fall out. The amount and the type of cargo is totally up to you, I like to have the bunny and the plastic egg for any grades four and above. And for younger students, I might just use one or the other. And the constraints here are really about time and materials. Now, I usually give students about 40 to 45 minutes, that might seem like a lot, but coming up with a working vehicle made primarily of carrots is a little bit more challenging than you might initially think.

If you wanna increase difficulty on this, you can require that the carrot carriages hold more cargo. Another option is to have student groups design their own ramp along with their carrot carriage similarly to how we did in Sled and Slope. You could also change the main challenge from rolling down a ramp to propelling itself along flat ground. Now if you do that, you're gonna need to add some new materials, perhaps balloons and rubber bands would be helpful in order to make that happen.

When students go to test their carriages, we're looking for two things. First, does it roll? Yes or no? Now, assuming it does roll, they're going to also track the distance it rolls off of the ramp. Now, they're probably gonna want to test their carriage multiple times, make a few tweaks. You can let them take their measurement as either a best of or an average of their results.

To extend on this, definitely have students look into the wheel and axle as it's the heart of this challenge as well as other simple machines. You also have a lot of measurement and geometry options available to you. You can estimate and measure things around the classroom using non-standard units of measurement like the baby carrots and then convert that into customary and perhaps even metric. You could estimate and measure the mass of single carrots, groups of carrots, or even the carrot carriage. With the circular slices of carrots, you could do circumference activities. Regular carrots tend to be conical in shape while baby carrots tend to be pretty cylindrical.

Students can use formulas to get calculate the volume of the carrots but of course since they are not perfect cones and cylinders, they'll be a little bit off so students can check that using a water displacement measure of volume and compare how close they were. And all of those examples generated quite a bit of data, so the students could also graph that data. One interesting thing to try is to let the carrot carriages sit overnight. They're going to dry out a little bit, so the next day when the students go in to use their carriages, they'll find that most of them won't work anymore. Then you can have students either repair their carriages or create a new design that would prevent the issue for future carriages.

Now you have all the basics in order to do this challenge in your class, on your own, but take a second to check out the resource because it is packed full of goodness for you.

This time saving resource contains everything you need including modifications for use with second through eighth graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials of course, but the rest is ready and waiting. You'll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM challenge How-to videos to help you get the most from each challenge and the Carrot Carriage Materials list. In Teacher Tips, you'll find premise and set up, 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 space paper saver version. You'll also find a set up group discussion questions. In the Extension Handouts, you'll find top 10 lists for why you should eat carrots and why the Easter bunny needs a carrot carriage, measurement practice for three different levels, as well as create your own word problems and process flow templates. This resource is available individually and as part of a discounted Easter spring and Mega STEM challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

I know your students are going to love this challenge. If you put any photos on social media, please tag me. I love to see the carrot carriage designs. Make sure you're following or subscribed, I'll be back in just a few days with bean bind. Have a fabulous week. I'll see you next time.

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