• info@steminsights.org
STEM Challenges with a Candy Cane

STEM Challenges with a Candy Cane

Perfect for the holiday season and a unique, highly engaging STEM Activity!

This unique STEM Challenge 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!

In this post, for your convenience, you may find Amazon Affiliate links to resources. This means that Amazon will pass on small percentages to me with your purchase of items. This will not create extra costs for you at all! It will help me keep this blog running!

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

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.


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!

So, what did we build with our candy canes?

This is one of the cars built by a team in this STEM challenge with a Candy Cane!

They used the cane as the drive shaft of their car and made a steering wheel from scrap paper. Those rubber bands are seatbelts!

Our cars were not required to roll, but you could add that rule to make this more challenging!

Here is a different car. This one also used the candy cane as part of the steering of the car>

Notice those wheels! I save everything – including empty tape reels.

It’s always interesting to see how teams will build the same structure but it will look completely different!

This one is a musical instrument. We had several different instruments including a drum that used the candy cane as the hooks to place over your shoulders to carry it.

The candy can is not visible in the photo but it was used as the tuning mechanism for the guitar.

Some Tips for Building with a Candy Cane

In the photo is a mini-golf hole. The candy cane is the golf club!

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.

Yes, this is definitely engaging. Students loved it – no matter which of the 6 structures the teams had to build. Sharing time was FUN!


Christmas Zip Line Adventure

6 Christmas Resources

Our Favorite Christmas Books for STEM

The post STEM Challenges with a Candy Cane appeared first on Teachers are Terrific.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *