Making one of these gingerbread houses has been on my “December To Do List” for the last two years, and we finally made it.
I emphasize we because, in reality, my kids made it.
Because they are great thinkers.
Why STEAM instead of STEM? In this case, I felt like the arts were prominent in this project. Actually, maybe I should be thinking STEAM more often… [OMG this book!]
I started by showing my kids the above picture from this amazing blog with the prompt “How can we make our own?”
They talked about what materials they could see in the picture (cardboard, plates, and paper, mainly) and then they were pretty excited when I pulled those three things out of a closet.
I split the class into three groups based on their expressed interests
- Candy Makers
- Roof Shingle Makers
- House Makers
A lot of kids wanted to be a house maker, but in the end they decided that maybe 2-4 kids should build because there would be too many people with too many different ideas otherwise.
I ended up choosing three students: one student with good building skills, one that is a great thinker and problem solver, and another that is a good leader. Let me tell you guys, these three kids were rock stars! They had great mathematical conversations about symmetry and awesome engineering thoughts on stability.
The materials I gave these students were three large cardboard boxes (each about $1.50 from Walmart) and duct tape. My role was just to cut (despite their pleadings to use the box cutter), use hot glue (again, they reaaallly wanted to do that), and occasionally give them some things to reflect on- they did the rest!
On their own, they realized that they needed to cut some of the box so that the roof could sit on the top correctly and that a lot of tape was needed.
Meanwhile, my other students were moving back and forth between “candy maker” and “shingle maker” based on their interests. The shingles are just half paper plates with the middle cut out. When the students asked me how many they should make, I just pointed to the “house makers” and the current gingerbread house and said “However many to fit on that roof. How can you figure that out?” Sure enough, they went and got rulers and measuring tape, brought them over to the cardboard, and they made a relatively good estimate!
I don’t give answers. Students discover them.
My artistically inclined kiddos made candy canes, chocolate bars, donuts (why are kids these days obsessed with donuts?), mints, and all sorts of sweets.
Students all worked together to glue on their goodies and some old, “not the right color for my boards,” border (just flipped back to the blank side!). I used a hot glue gun to stick the paper plates on while a few others cut out colorful circles to place in the shingles.
Honestly, this project did take a long time. It could have been completed a lot faster if I had given specific “how to” instructions, but that wasn’t what this lesson was about. To grow creative problem-solvers we need to give students time to actually think and use the trial-and-error process. They did have a model to reference, and I need to reflect on this and decide if I still want that for next year or if I want to just put the idea out there and see what they come up with. Probably the latter.
Is ours as pretty and perfect as some others out there on Pinterest- not in the same way! I love it, it’s beautiful because my students took ownership of the classroom. This is not something I brought in that they get to use- it is theirs.
And then of course I had to get in on the fun because #picsoritdidnthappen