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Count Down to Winter Break with Creative STEM

Teachers, are you looking for ways to keep students engaged even as Winter Break approaches? We have great suggestions for fun and creative science experiments kids can do in class with easy-to-find materials. Your students can make "holiday" items from these STEM projects or other decorations.

Photo collage of six holiday themed science projects

Creative STEM to hold their attention before winter break! www.sciencebuddies.org

Hold their attention with a creative STEM activity

The last few weeks before Winter Break can be full of energy. Students are ready for the break, and teachers may have trouble finding quality science projects that can be done in the classroom and tie in with December celebrations. Science Buddies has great hands-on STEM projects and Lesson Plans for learning activities students can do in the classroom that offer a fun and creative takeaway.

Encourage creative science and build on excitement over the approach of Winter Break with projects like these:

  • Turn Milk Into Plastic: this chemistry activity has just the right mix of "ick" (scooping curdled milk) and creativity to capture student attention. Whether your students make ornaments, decorations, beads, or just small sculptures, turning milk into a dough-like plastic you can mold (and then let harden) is sure to generate science discussion and creative fun. Push a hole through creations while they are still soft so that kids can tie a ribbon or string through them after they harden. Note: plan on letting milk plastic creations sit for 48 hours to fully harden. Once hardened, students can paint or decorate their creations — and tell others about polymers and Casein! The NGSS-aligned guided Lesson Plan supports teachers in doing this activity in class and provides optional worksheet and assessment materials. (An overview video can also be assigned in advance of the classroom activity; Google Classroom teachers can assign the video directly to their Google Classroom students!) Directions for a casual home activity are also available, which makes this a great STEM choice for families looking to keep kids engaged over the break.

  • Make Crystals: making crystals from a few simple ingredients and exploring the science behind crystal formation is a classic hands-on science activity. In this version, students grow crystals on pipe cleaners (rather than a thinner string), which makes it easier for students to take home their science experiment. Twist the pipe cleaners into a ring or wreath shape for a December spin on the activity! Crystals take time to form, so allow 5-6 hours after the activity before the creations are moved or taken home. Directions are available in the family-friendly activity.

  • Make Tie-Dye with Permanent Markers: using permanent markers to draw a pattern or picture and then adding alcohol makes for a fun activity with groovy science built in. There will be plenty of oohs and aahs as students watch the color begin to spread! Projects can be left as flat pieces of fabric (punch a hole in the corner for hanging) or salvage old mason jar lids to create simple but sturdy hanging pieces of science-class art! This activity is relatively low-mess, but be careful with the permanent markers! Directions are available in the family-friendly activity. See our Colorful Sharpie Tie-Dye Science post for added inspiration!

  • Make a Paper Circuit: paper circuits with LEDs, copper tape, and a coin cell battery give kids an easy and exciting way to "light up" their art and learn about electricity and circuits at the same time. The paper circuit activity can be used to create a wide range of light-up art projects. Once students understand the basics of the closed circuit, stand back and see what they create! See the Paper Circuits Bring Light to Seasonal Greetings post to see how one of our testers used this STEM activity to spruce up ordinary holiday cards!

  • Electric Play Dough: when you use conductive and insulating dough, students can create all kinds of small light-up sculptures that put basic circuits to use. Depending on the dough you use, creations may dry out if left out in the open air, so this activity is one to view for hands-on, creative STEM fun in the moment. When finished, store the dough in an airtight container (or refrigerate, depending on the dough). This is a great activity for classroom use or for home. Both an NGSS-aligned Lesson Plan and a set of family-friendly directions are available. See the Light Up Your Creativity with Electric Play Dough post for Winter-themed inspiration!

Science should always be fun and eye opening! But when kids are antsy for break to arrive (or going stir crazy indoors at home), a great and creative hands-on activity may be just what you need to capture their imagination and put science to use!

Science Buddies Lesson Plans are supported, in part, by the Cisco Foundation.


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