4 Easy and Affordable STEM Activities for Winter

Winter in an elementary classroom can either be full of fun and chaos or feel like it’s never going to end, so it’s important to plan activities that will hold your student’s attention from December to February. STEM activities are a great way to get your students excited about learning and incorporate some fun, hands-on challenges they will love. I am so excited to share with you 4 of my favorite easy and affordable winter STEM activities that are sure to be a hit in your classroom!

Use these easy and affordable STEM activities with your students this winter season.

What are STEM Activities?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. These are all essential skills our students should be exposed to during their learning career, and they are never too young to start. STEM activities are designed to be hands-on and fun for students to complete. 
STEM challenges are usually presented as problems students have to solve with specific supplies and parameters for students to follow. The best part about STEM activities is that the focus is more on the process than the product. Students are encouraged to reflect on the process and think about what they could do to improve their design.
The four basic steps to any STEM activity include:
  1. The problem presented to students
  2. Research and plan
  3. Build
  4. Analyze and reflect
These steps are similar to and go along with the design process in an easy to understand way students love!
STEM activities help students enhance their critical thinking skills through challenges and projects they are excited to complete.

I can tell you from experience, my students get super excited when they know they will be working on STEM activities in my classroom. Believe it or not, they are more focused while working on STEM challenges than almost any other activity we do. 
My students always beg for a little more time to work on their STEM activities, and I have even had students ask to stay in from recess to continue working on their projects. It’s definitely a win-win in my book!
If you are interested in trying some easy and affordable STEM activities in your classroom, check out my post “Easy STEM Activity to get Students Excited.”   


Winter STEM Activities

So, let’s talk about STEM activities you can do with your elementary students during the winter months that will not only be fun but educational as well. It can feel overwhelming to try to come up with winter-themed STEM activities that will also hit some of your essential teaching standards. Have no fear; I’m here to help with 4 amazing winter STEM activities you can easily complete with your students this winter. 

1. Sledding Ramp 

This STEM challenge is super easy and fun for students to complete. This challenge asks students to create their own sledding hill using simple materials. Then, they will “slide” pennies down their ramps to see whose ramp sends the penny the longest distance. 
Through this project, students will be using simple machines (inclined plane), measurement skills, and physics. Once done they will collect and analyze data then interpret the data in order to answer questions about the challenge.
Students love working collaboratively to create a sledding ramp out of simple and inexpensive materials.
This challenge is great for small groups and encourages collaboration and creative thinking from all students. 
Suggested easy to find materials for each group include:
  • 1 ft. of foil
  • Tower blocks
  • Penny
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Straws
  • Tape
If you don’t have these materials, no problem!  Add or delete as needed, that is the beauty of STEM! Students will all use different materials to construct their designs.
This challenge also includes pages for research, planning, data collection and analysis, and most importantly reflection. 

2. Tallest Snowman

Whether you have snow on the ground or not, this snowman challenge will get all of your students excited to work collaboratively to build melt-proof snowmen indoors. 
Using a set number of supplies and materials, students will work collaboratively to build the tallest snowman.

Using 10 large marshmallows, toothpicks, and one straw, students will work together to build the tallest snowman.  This project engages students with engineering and construction concepts as well as identifying characteristics of different building materials.   
Within the 30 minute timeframe, students will sketch out their design, build their snowman, collect and analyze data to compare all of the snowmen built in the class, and reflect on the process. 

3. Igloo Home

This STEM challenge focuses on building an igloo big enough to keep as many arctic animals safe as possible during the cold winter months. Students love being presented with a problem that they can solve to help others, and this igloo challenge is no exception. 
Easy and affordable materials to use for this challenge include:
  • 50 Mini-marshmallows
  • Toothpicks
  • Large marshmallows
  • Printed arctic animals to tape to the large marshmallows
This adorable STEM challenge is easy to differentiate with two options for lower-level learners and advanced learners. With just a few simple adjustments you can create an easier or more challenging activity for your class. 

This adorable STEM challenge asks students to construct an igloo to hold as many arctic animals as possible.
After researching igloo designs, and planning out their own igloo structure, students will use the arctic animals taped to the large marshmallows to see how many fit inside their igloo structure. 
This is a fun activity to do with the class. I like to move each igloo to the front of the room and have the students help me count how many arctic animals we can fit into each igloo. This is also the perfect time for students to fill out their data collection and analysis sheets to compare and contrast the igloo designs their classmates have made. 
Last, but not least, students will have the opportunity to reflect on their igloo design. This is such an important step in the STEM process. When students have the opportunity to reflect on what went well and what could have been done better, they are able to develop their important critical thinking skills. 

4. Marshmallow Shooter

This is by far my student’s most favorite winter STEM activity. I love to use a big space like the cafeteria or gymnasium for our snowball fight, but if you happen to have a nice weather day don’t be afraid to take your marshmallow shooters outside. 
Your students will have a blast creating their own marshmallow shooters for a fun snowball fight!

This STEM challenge gets kids excited to build a marshmallow shooter that will launch marshmallows towards an opponent. The catch is, they also have to think about how they will stay out of range of the other team’s marshmallow shooter. 

With simple materials like large marshmallows, plastic cups, and balloons, your students will test, adjust, and test their designs again and again. This is a great way to encourage students to really think about their design and make improvements in real-time. 
In addition to the reflection sheet, students will also be using their planning sheet to write sentences describing their design. 
When it’s time to let the marshmallows fly, your room will be filled with giggles and engaged students. This is a great indoor recess activity too. I know you and your students will love this STEM challenge as much as my students and I do. 

Try STEM in Your Classroom

I love STEM so much that I want you to try it out in your classroom.  STEM is so much more than just fun projects.  It’s a great way for students to develop critical thinking skills and apply what they have learned in class to a real-life challenge or problem.  Grab this FREE STEM Activity packet and give STEM a try in your classroom.  This activity is great to use alone or with the book Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon.  You won’t be sorry!

Add STEM to your Winter Plans

These easy and affordable winter STEM activities are the key to keeping your students engaged and hitting their learning goals during the busy month of December, or the long month of January when outdoor play is limited. 
Each of these STEM challenges includes materials and supplies that are easy to find and super affordable. You can even ask parents to send in donations of some of the materials you will be using. 

Pin it!

Be sure to save these easy and affordable STEM activities for winter to your favorite Pinterest teacher board so you can come back anytime in the future for super fun and engaging STEM activities your students will love. 


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