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I love seasonal project-based learning, and my students do too! My newest addition to my project list is a gingerbread house STEM project that incorporates paper circuits. If you’ve never done paper circuits with your students, you NEED to! The supplies are affordable (links below), and it’s just so stinkin’ cool.
STEM Project Components
Science/Technology: Paper Circuits
Engineering: House design and stability testing
Math: Measurement and project cost
Added Connections: ELA standards should be included when researching and discussing during this project.
The following materials are the ones we used for this project. You can substitute the food items if you want. I purchase the batteries, copper tape, and LED lights on Amazon for under $15 total, and then ask families to donate the food items. I use the Amazon boxes for cardboard, and I already have a stockpile of white paper and paper clips!
- Lithium Batteries (3V)
- Paper clips and binder clips
- White paper
- Copper Tape
- LED lights (variety pack)
- Square & rectangular gingerbread cookies
- White icing
- Sprinkles, gum drop, and other candy
We kick off this project by researching gingerbread houses. I show my students YouTube videos of huge gingerbread house displays. We talk about traditions and read a passage about gingerbread houses. Next, we learn about circuits through research and discussion. Our research relies heavily on photos and videos, but we do also read a nonfiction passage about circuits. The passage I give them includes information on paper circuits, and is included in my Gingerbread House STEM resource.
Paper circuits are so cool, and much more affordable to make than traditional circuits. With basic knowledge of circuits, your students can test out different ideas for making lighted holiday decor for the front of their gingerbread house. In my example below, we make two individual circuits for two “post” lights in the front of the house.
This video demonstration shows one possible way to create a paper circuit as a part of your gingerbread house decor. Remember that your students will come up with their own ways to accomplish this task!
I incorporate two main math concepts during this project, but there are a lot of small skills sprinkled in as well. First of all, we use fractions to calculate the cost when only using a small part of a supply like icing, sprinkles, or a package of cookies. I ask each student to stay under $5 for the food items used on their gingerbread house.
The second main math concept that can be used with this resource is measurement. Area and perimeter is our main focus when we are recording data about our structure.
ELA is fairly easy to incorporate into any project-based learning activity. In this one, we focus on the following skills:
- main idea and details
- informational writing
We read two passages during this project: All About Circuits and The History of Gingerbread Houses. These passages are included in my full Gingerbread STEM resource. During our reading, we focus on taking notes on key details. We then discuss the main idea of the passage. We further research circuits, reading books that I check out from the library, and online sources.
I pace this project out in 90 minute blocks for 5 consecutive days. The pacing calendar below shows what step of the engineering process we do each day. I have a student organizer for each day that students have as a folded journal for the entire project. Keeping your project-based learning organized helps you better facilitate your students through in-depth inquiry. For more information on planning project-based learning, read this post.