Thanksgiving Elementary STEM Activity to Support 'The Great Turkey Race'

When the holiday season comes upon us, that can be tough in a lot of ways, especially as a teacher. I have found through my teaching experience, having hands-on and engaging tasks for my students during this time can help reign in all the extra energy, but still be meaningful. 

STEM activities are a great way to lift student engagement. In fact, my growing STEM & Stories collection integrates books and a corresponding STEM activity that works for multiple grade levels. 

Let's dive into how STEM is integrated after reading the story The Great Turkey Race by Steve Metzger.

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Before you do this activity with your kids, there is a tiny bit of prep work you'll need to do to make sure this activity goes smoothly. The goal of this STEM challenge is for students to build a fence for the turkeys to hop over. *Spoiler Alert* This is how the turkeys get away at the end of the book!*

Since this activity is all about the fence design, having the catapults built ahead of time is super helpful. One thing that I like to do for my STEM classes for their supplies is to create Building Kits. It's just a Ziploc bag with their pre-portioned supplies, but it definitely sounds more official! This gives the kids more time to build if everything is already organized. 

Gluing a pom pom to the back of each turkey gives it more weight to help it launch over the fence and help them stand up. 

Also, decide how you want to share the student response sheets. Of course you can print, but having the option to share digitally is a great bonus. I used the digital version of the student sheets in Seesaw since I did this activity with over 75 Kindergarteners in one day. That's a lot of paper I saved and parents got to see their work right away! 

Here are all the extras you will need for this Thanksgiving STEM activity along with the Engineering Design Process Student sheets that I've already created for you.

-Dry Spaghetti

After reading the story The Great Turkey Race by Steve Metzger {or listening to it online on YouTube}, students will do a little bit of research on engineers and how they solve problems effectively. Afterwards, they'll plan how they will design a fence for their turkeys to hop over. Their planning can be done either on paper or digitally. 

They can also utilize the Engineering Design Process checklist to help them keep track of their progress along the way through this challenge. This is also helpful if you need to extend this activity into multiple days or even during different time blocks in one day. 

Once students' designs are built, they can launch their turkeys over the fence. Some preferred to launch all 3 at once, like the book, or do one turkey at a time. While launching, you will notice students making adjustments to their bridges to make them taller, shorter or even wider.

Teaching the students to build their fences already standing up instead of having them flat on the table THEN standing them up is a lot easier and they won't break apart as quickly. 

Of course, reflection is essential for continuing a growth mindset, and students can write, draw or even record using a tool like Seesaw, how the Engineering Design Process through this STEM activity worked for them. 

My STEM students always get so proud of their creations and want to take their work home. Since I teach K-5, I often need to reuse materials and students physically keeping their work isn't always an option. However, using Seesaw, I often have students take a video or photo of their work so they can continue that conversation at home with their families. 

Seesaw is always free. However, you can get bonus features with Seesaw Plus through my link. 

This was such a great Thanksgiving activity. If I were a regular classroom teacher again, this would be something that I would definitely implement or even do during a fall party.  You can grab a visual teacher lesson plan all of the printable and digital student sheets, here. There is also a bonus anchor chart for taking clear photos of your work as a student guide. 

How do you integrate STEM and literacy in engaging ways?  Let me know and send me a message on Instagram @marvelousmsm

Stay marvelous!

Naomi from Marvelous Ms. Meredith 

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