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The Brown Bag Tree (Christmas STEM)

The Brown Bag Tree (Christmas STEM)

Simple materials, great problem-solving, designing, and teamwork! It’s the Brown Bag Tree STEM Challenge!

I have so many things to share about this amazing holiday project to design a Christmas tree using one simple material. We call it the Brown Bag Tree for a reason!

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What’s the Challenge?

Students use materials to design a tree for the holiday. The catch is one of the materials is a brown paper bag ( lunch bag). That bag must be used as part of the tree but can be any part the team decides.

Now, what did I expect? I thought the students would use the bag for the trunk.

Boy, was I wrong about that! I watched in fascination as different groups tackled the Brown Bag Tree challenge- with different results and so many problems to solve! The task has some requirements that proved to be tricky. Let’s look at all the ways students designed their Brown Bag Trees.

The Brown Bag Tree must stand up.

The tree itself can be flat as long as it stands upright. This is a little challenging when you make the tree out of one thin paper bag.

Add the weight of the decorations to the flimsy paper and you have a tree that falls over.

The team in this photo added a well-placed craft stick behind their tree to make it stand up! #clever

The tree can be any shape.

Another guideline about the brown bag tree was its shape! The only rule was that it could be any shape.

A flat tree was one I saw a lot! Students made them with the bag or construction paper.

TIP: This is the perfect challenge to use your scrap box for! Students will make all sorts of decorations (or trees) from those scraps.

How About a Skinny Tree?

I think one thing students decided about this challenge was that a skinny tree could stand upright better than a wide one.

This made for some interesting decor details.

In the far left photo notice students cut pipe cleaners into tiny pieces to make tree branches.

In the center picture students loaded the tree down with ornaments made of pom-poms. And in the third photo pipe cleaners were used for garland.

The use of materials was interesting. And unexpected.

Pipe cleaners were used in so many ways. They were branches on trees, cut into tiny pieces or wrapped in a round shape.

In these 4 pictures look for the brown bag. On 3 of the trees, the bag is the trunk (which is what I expected). But in the 4th picture, the bag is taped to the tabletop and the tree to make it stand up.

Also, did you see the tree skirt one team made for their brown bag tree?

More Unexpected Things!

I never thought about making presents to go under the tree, but students sure did. In the above photos you have gift boxes with paper bows, and flat boxes with pipe cleaner bows. So creative!

And, finally, the trees needed a star!

This was so fun to watch. Stars were made from all sorts of materials. In the photos, you have a paper star, two pipe cleaner stars, and a star made from cotton swabs!

In one of my classes, we discovered one student could make a perfect star for her team’s tree. Soon after that, other teams were taking a pipe cleaner to her to make a star for their tree. Our expert star maker!

I know you will love the simple, easy prep STEM Challenge. It’s perfect for those last couple of weeks before Christmas break!


STEM Challenge with Candy Canes

Christmas Toy Zip Line

Christmas Escape Rooms

Materials for Christmas Projects

The post The Brown Bag Tree (Christmas STEM) appeared first on Teachers are Terrific.



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