How to Take STEM One Step Further

Happy October to You!

I bet you’re wondering how you can keep your students engaged during October, the exciting season of candy! Well, I’m here to tell you what else candy is good for…STEM projects.

Candy STEM

Now, this project is probably no mystery to you in the age of Pinterest. It’s really nothing new. You challenge your students to design a structure using toothpicks and some sort of sticky substance for the joints. Depending on the time of year it might be marshmallows, jelly beans, gum drops, or in this case, candy corn! You can also use those sugary pumpkin guys that taste like candy corn. You could even challenge your students to make one tower with candy corn and one with pumpkins and see which is sturdier. You can do this as a fun Halloween/fall activity or after Halloween when the candy is dirt cheap. Speaking of cheap, you can try it with any leftover candy from Halloween. Use your leftovers or have students bring in their own(parents will thank you.)

The Twist

Yes, in good S.O.L. Train Learning fashion, there is a twist! I decided to partner my 1st grade students with a coworker’s 3rd grade students. I call it STEM Buddies. Now, you may do a version of this called Book Buddies, where an older class reads to your younger class. I loved seeing the results of the younger/older collaboration and decided to branch out to STEM. One thing I have already been doing in my classroom week-to-week are our Innovation Stations, so my students were already very comfortable with the STEM process. Read more about Innovation Stations.  You can read it now or come back to it when you’re finished.


The Design

The first step in this project was to create a structure design. This isn’t essential, but does provide a nice starting point. Students can draw and erase and redraw until they are satisfied with their designs. If you have them start immediately with the materials, it may be difficult to make alterations. Think of the design as a draft and the structure as the final draft. You can see one of the designs below:

You can be as hands-on or hands-off with this as you want. Give students basics on structural integrity, have them research it themselves, or have them experiment right away. It’s up to you. You can even have a class discussion about building basics and see what insight they can offer as a whole group.

Working as a Team

I  always love to point out the cooperation my students display as a result of our Quality Students song.  If you want the song, it’s free in our Teacherspayteachers store. You can see below how they are a “T- Team working together.” My students love modeling this part of the song when they work in groups!

The Structure

I decided to increase the challenge by limiting supplies and time. They were given 15 minutes to build the structure, 5 pumpkins, and 10 candy corns. Below are a couple works in progress:

The Conclusion

Once the structures were complete, the class gathered to talk about their experiences. They concluded that candy corn aren’t as effective as pumpkins and that all pumpkins may have created a stronger structure. One student suggested the use of marshmallows. The best part is when I asked my students if failed experiments mean we stop trying, their answer was a resounding “no!” STEM is the perfect way to show your students that failure isn’t necessarily bad. It is a great opportunity to see what doesn’t work and to try something else. For more on why failure is good, check out 3 Good Reasons to Celebrate Failure.

Well, that’s all for now. Let us know how STEM buddies is working in your classroom. Feel free to offer suggestions from your experience in the comments below. Enjoy and keep engaging!

Try our popular Pumpkin Scoot games. Your students will love the pumpkin manipulatives! These cards can be used in a center, as a read around the room activity or as scoot games.

Some of my students used the pumpkin manipulatives to practice number order as they counted.


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Pam and Brittany





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