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Holiday STEM: Build Cranberry and Cinnamon Rafts

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Today I want to share a fun and simple STEM challenge that is great to do during the holidays! Build a cranberry and cinnamon stick raft!  This STEM challenge could work great for both for Christmas or Thanksgiving time.

Holiday STEM Challenge- cranberry and cinnamon rafts

STEM Challenge:  Build a Cranberry and Cinnamon Stick Raft

I came up with this idea during Thanksgiving. I was talking to my sisters about wanting to use the leftover cranberries for a STEM project. I wanted to make cranberry rafts with my kids and my sister threw in the idea of making it with cinnamon sticks, too!  I loved this idea and immediately was on board! We had so much fun with it, so I am glad we gave it a try!

The Educational Elements of this STEM Challenge:

Sensory: Building a Cranberry Cinnamon Stick Raft is a sensory activity as well as an engineering challenge.  The senses will be alive with the smells of the holidays!  Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh cinnamon and the colors of the bright red cranberries?  You can use the leftover supplies after to make some mulled cider!  They don’t have to go to waste!

Engineering: Kids are using their critical thinking skills to develop a raft that will float.  Kids can use the provided supplies to figure out how to make a working raft that holds together. This may take some trial and error. We had a few fails before we found some models that worked. That’s the beauty of these STEM challenges.

Hands-On Learning:  Kids love projects that get them playing and using their hands. They love to build and create and they love being creative. These types of activities are always more memorable.

Sink or Float: Learn about the science of floating or buoyancy. Talk about Archimedes principle: “any object wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object”. This force is called buoyancy or flotation force.  (See my Salt Water Density: Sink- Float Activity, too!)

To build a cranberry and cinnamon stick raft you will need the following supplies:

These supplies are easy to find at any store, especially during the holiday season!

cranberry cinnamon rafts STEM challenge

Fresh cranberries
Cinnamon sticks
Embroidery thread or yard
Large needles
Tub or large bowl of water

Cranberries float well on their own, which we knew already.

building cranberry rafts- Holiday STEM challenge

More About Cranberries: Cranberries have pockets of air inside of them that make them float. This is why cranberry bogs are flooded when they are harvesting them. The fruit floats making them easier to find and collect from the plant.

holiday STEM challenge

Cinnamon sticks, we were not sure how well they would float. They do float for a bit, but eventually become bogged down as water enters the curled up areas of the sticks.

More About Cinnamon Sticks:  The cinnamon sticks that are most widely used come from the dried bark of the Cinnamomum cassia, an evergreen tree that grows in Indonesia. It is soft and pliable and can be harvested in thick layers.  These layers of bark are dried in the sun. While drying, they curl inward on both sides, creating the cinnamon sticks we recognize.  They resemble a scroll and are hollow inside.

My kids loved getting creative and coming up with different cranberry and cinnamon raft ideas.They started with a simple one that had just one cinnamon stick and two cranberries connected with toothpicks stuck into the cinnamon stick.  This floated quite well!

holiday STEM project- Christmas rafts

But they wanted to build better rafts, so they connected multiple sticks together to resemble the logs of a traditional raft.  They added multiple cranberries by threading them with embroidery thread and a needle and they tying the thread around the raft.  They both came up with a creative solution!

Christmas STEM challenge

I also loved their cranberry people that they made with toothpicks!  They were named Cranjoe and Crangela. 🙂  They tried to float these people on the rafts, but mostly it made them tip over.  And the people floated quite well on their own!

Cranberry Science

Use the supplies after to feed the birds!

cranberry garlands

We strung up our cranberries and hung them in a tree outside to feed our local birds!

winter cranberry garland for birds

Tie it in with a book! We love th Cranberry Christmas & Cranberry Thanksgiving books!

cranberry christmas

See more Holiday Learning Activities:

Christmas STEM: Poinsettia Ph Experiment

Christmas STEM: Rudolph Pipe Cleaner Circuit

Christmas STEM: Gingerbread House Paper Circuits

Gingerbread House Geometry: Edible STEM

Pascal’s Triangle Christmas Tree Math

Christmas Science: Grow a Crystal Tree

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