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Building with a Candy Cane

Build a structure with a candy cane sounds like one of those wacky STEM Challenges I have invented! #right

Well, this one came about because I grabbed some boxes of candy canes at a really low price and then had to decide what to do with them. I thought about it briefly and then had a great brain pop!

At first, I was thinking of giving each team 5 or so candy canes, but I decided that was not going to be cost-effective for me. So, each team would only get one, but what to do with it? What if students had to build something in which the candy cane is a functional part.

Oh, it gets even more interesting! Keep reading!

A great problem-solving STM Challenge that is also a free resource! Students have 6 structures to choose from and they must build the structure that includes a candy cane with a function!

The Candy Cane Challenge

My idea is basically that each team will have one candy cane. The cane must be a functional part of the structure, not just decorative. So, what can they build?

Aha! This is where I added a little twist. I made 6 task cards. Each card gives the requirements for a different structure. I handed these out randomly. Every team will be building something different.

So, how does that work with materials?

The Materials

Materials lined up and ready for the candy cane STEM Challenge!

For the materials, I grabbed common items that I always have in the STEM Lab.

But, instead of preparing a bin for each structure, I decided to leave it up to the teams.

They had to “purchase” the materials!

You may have seen other challenges of mine where I use a budget. Students plan their designs and then “buy” the materials from STEM Mart. They must stay within a budget.

Now, the easiest way I have to suggest you display your materials is by using bins like the ones in the photo. For this challenge, I just filled bins with some of each of the available materials. These bins were out so students could see the materials. When students came to STEM Mart to collect materials I could easily grab what they requested.


Filling out the budget sheet for the Candy Cane STEM Challenge!

First, teams were given the assignment cards randomly. They were able to take a look at available materials.

Next, they drew their ideas and created a plan for the design.

Then it was time to decide what materials would work best!

Teams filled out the cost sheet and then brought the cost sheet to STEM Mart to grab their supplies.

I always check these lists. If a team asks for a large amount of something I will sometimes get them to explain their idea. I do this to keep them from wasting materials, but also to keep them from wasting their fake money. Occasionally, teams think they must spend all of their money at their first visit to STEM Mart. So, I help them out a little with this!

You can tell in the picture above how many times this team changed its mind!

All Finished Building with Candy Canes

Four results of the free Candy Cane STEM Challenge!

Just a few of our finished structures!

Top left- a musical instrument.

Top right: A car.

Bottom left: A mini-golf course.

Bottom right: a musical instrument.

Now, one of the requirements is that the candy cane must be functional. In the guitar above the cane is the tuner for the strings. For the car, the cane is part of the steering mechanism. On the golf course, the cane is the golf club! And on the drum, the cane is one of the hooks that the drummer uses to place the drum over his shoulders!

So clever!

Some Tips for Building with a Candy Cane

Materials Tip: Grab things you have on hand. We always use cardboard. It’s a good idea to have pieces pre-cut.

The cost sheet in this resource is editable so you can change the materials to suit your classroom.

TIP: But the least expensive candy canes! I found boxes at Dollar Tree. And buy extras! The candy canes do break easily and I did replace them when teams had one that broke while being used.

I also kept some candy canes to give out to students after the challenge was over!

Who is this challenge for?

This challenge works for many ages- I used it with third-fifth grades. For the older students just make the rules a little tougher. The task cards are also editable in this resource.

ARE YOU READY FOR THE BEST NEWS? This challenge is free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Just click on any of the images to grab it!

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A great problem-solving STM Challenge that is also a free resource! Students have 6 structures to choose from and they must build the structure that includes a candy cane with a function!