Gingerbread for the head
First grade teachers Michelle Adkins and Staci Hansen are in the second year of using gingerbread houses to educate students with an engineering-focused STEM project.
“Kids really enjoy the STEM projects,” Adkins said. “They get to discover things on their own through hands-on learning and creative problem solving.”
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math.
Students read “The Gingerbread Man” and other stories inspired by the cookie leading up to Friday’s construction date.
Math’s role in construction was introduced. Students also learned basic structural vocabulary terms, examined the job of an engineer, and watched a house erected from the ground up in time-lapse video teachers presented.
As to the construction of the gingerbread houses, students were assigned design requirements, but allowed flexibility in the final structure.
“With STEM projects, we always ask students to write a plan down on paper, but they can change their plan if they need to,” Adkins said. “All the houses needed at least one door, one window, a roof, and a foundation.”
Empty milk cartons were provided as a structural base.
Students were given a sugary materials list that read more like a recipe. It included graham crackers, chocolate chips, candy canes, M&M’s, Skittles, marshmallows, and Pull & Peel licorice.
The list did not always exist, but Adkins said gingerbread houses turned into unrecognizable globs or mounds of sweets.
“None of them could resist putting everything on,” Adkins joked, explaining what lead to the more budgeted approach.
The project culminated Friday in a flurry of construction.
An underlying idea in the assignment was to build a version of the gingerbread house used to trap the protagonist in a story called “Gingerbread Baby,” read earlier in the week.
Fourth grade “Book Buddies” helped first graders follow gingerbread blue prints. Results and approaches to building varied student to student.
“Some use scissors but a lot like to just cut the licorice with their teeth,” Adkins said. “They bite it and use it to make doors and windows.”
Adkins said there was no right or wrong gingerbread house and no competition to see who built the best one, but projects were evaluated and students received “happy or sad faces” depending on how well they followed their plans.
Last modified Dec. 23, 2014