This resource includes 5 themed STEM challenges centered around the story of a group of stranded arctic explorers.
Begin by showing students the “movie trailer” (preview video) to build interest. Then, after hearing the story of the failed expedition, students will read 5 diary entries. Each one will challenge them to design something to help the group make it back to base camp.
Includes 5 separate challenges:
- Arctic Architect: Construct An Igloo
- Bundle Up: Design A Blanket
- Polar Bear Defense: Snowball Shooter
- Lookout Mountain: Build A Tower
- Lookout Mountain: Design A Parachute
These STEM challenges use common materials that you probably already have in your classroom (Please see the preview for a list). They incorporate concepts of linear measurement, weight measurement, area, force and motion, properties of shapes, simple machines, and scientific process.
Each STEM challenge in this pack includes:
- teacher instructions
- student challenge sheet
- planning and design pages
- scoring rubric
There is a set of team member role cards, design process cards, a master score sheet to find out which group is the most successful at helping the explorers, and associated NGSS standards.
Both metric and standard (imperial) versions are included.
Each challenge in this pack is fully planned out making it easy to get started. They are also highly engaging because students are involved in solving a real-life problem.
✪ “LOVE the creativity of this product, and also how the activities weave into a story that the kids can really relate to. Great STEM activities with minimal prep and materials. Great product! Thanks!” – Kimberly
✪ “My students loved these projects!!! The rubrics gave clear guidelines and expectations for the students.” – Nicole
How long does each challenge take to complete?
This somewhat depends on the age of your students. I have found that the older students spend more time brainstorming and really planning their designs. They are also more careful when building and testing. Each challenge includes reading part of the storyline. This may take 5 minutes or 15, depending on if your students engage in conversation about it. Then students will need to brainstorm, plan, and collect their materials. The actual building and testing portion of the challenges usually takes about an hour. If you want your students to go back and make improvements to their designs, that will add more time. Overall, I would plan on using two class periods to complete each challenge from start to finish.
Why don’t you list specific quantities for each material?
It is important to remember that STEM is a process that requires brainstorming, hypothesizing, planning, designing, and testing. If you tell students how much to use of certain items, they will use exactly that much. This completely defeats the purpose of STEM and turns it into doing a craft. We want students to think about what would work best to meet their goal. When you tell them exactly what to use and how much, you’re doing the thinking for them. You can certainly limit how much students can take of each material. The challenges are very flexible. They include a list of suggested materials and note which ones are actually required. You can eliminate, limit, or add any other materials you like.
Do you have pictures of what the finished designs should look like?
I have included a few pictures in the preview but they are not part of the main file. Here’s why… the second you show students what a successful design looks like, they will naturally try to copy it. There is no “right way” to complete a challenge. For example, a working bridge can be made out of any number of materials. It could be a truss bridge, suspension bridge, arch, cable, or beam bridge. Showing students what the finished design looks like gives them preconceived ideas that they will inevitably carry over into their brainstorming and design process. Again, this is doing the thinking for them.
Not sure where to start with STEM? See:
How to Choose the Best STEM Challenges for Your Students
NOTE: This resource may NOT be used for commercial purposes such as Outschool.