STEAM Snack: Let it Snow!

Hello and welcome to our brand-new monthly series!  Each month we will share a post focused on STEAM activities and snacks you can do at home with your family or with your troop! If you are interested, don’t forget to subscribe to the GSHPA Blog to be sure you don’t miss a single post!  

So, let’s jump into this month’s STEAM Snack! Today’s post is inspired by December, my favorite month! I love that it is officially cold enough for snow, not to mention December is also my birthday month! So to get in the spirit of winter today I have snow themed projects and snacks for you! If you have a favorite that is not included below, please let us know in the comments!  

Today’s Topic: Engineering 

An engineer is someone who solves problems with creative solutions, usually through design and building.  Engineers use their imaginations to invite new things, develop new and improved designs and much more! Incorporating engineering into your activities can be a great way to assist young girls learn problem-solving skills that help make the world a better place!  

Engineers use the “engineering design process” to work through solutions and designs, which also embodies skills that Girl Scouts can adapt to any situation.  

The engineering design process is: 

  • Define the Problem  
  • Identify the constraints on your solution (time, money, materials) and criteria for success 
  • Brainstorm multiple solutions for the problem 
  • Select the most promising solution 
  • Prototype your solution 
  • Test and evaluate your prototype 
  • Iterate to improve your prototype
  • Communicate your solution

What if I’m not an expert in engineering? 

We are not all engineers, and it is common to feel like we may not know enough to lead girls through an engineering activity. As long as you have the ambition and enthusiasm to try you will do great! Just focus on the steps of the engineering design process, let the girls lead their own their own projects, and see where it goes. The group will develop many different designs as the girls use their imagination to solve the challenge!  

If you are feeling like you would like additional knowledge from an engineering expert that is okay too! You can reach out to your troop parents, friends, relatives or other GSHPA troop leaders on the GSHPA Facebook page to see if there is an engineer you can invite to talk to your girls.   

How do I get started? 

Start by taking some time to look over the engineering design process. If you would like more information take a look at this video from KQED Quest that explains this process by using tacos!   

Once you have an understanding of the process you will want to gather supplies for your activity. We recommend trying out the activity on your own before introducing it to your girls. It is always easier to guide girls through an activity when you have tried it yourself. Just start at the beginning and work your way through each step. As you go, make notes (mental or written) on how each step works for you along with any modifications you might make for your Girl Scouts! When you are done you will even have a prototype to show off and share with the group!  

The Badges: 

  • Daisy: Journey Think like an Engineer 
  • Brownie: Journey Think like an Engineer
  • Junior: Journey Think like an Engineer
  • Cadette: Journey Think like an Engineer 
  • Senior: Journey Think like an Engineer 
  • Ambassador: Journey Think like an Engineer

The activity below will complete the first step of the Journey: Think like an Engineer for each program level! In this activity girls will talk about the design process, build their very own catapult and have a great time too!  

If you have Brownie Girl Scouts, please note that the catapult can count as one of their build challenges for this Journey, they will need to complete three builds in total. 

The Activity! 

Materials: Cotton balls, construction paper, popsicle/craft sticks, straws, toothpicks, pipe cleaners, plastic spoons, tape, string, glue, rubber bands, and any other building/decorating supplies you’d like to add!  

Introduction:  Start by talking to the group about the basics of engineering, how to be an engineer and the engineering design process. We recommend sharing that video we included above, who doesn’t love talking about tacos! If you have a large group or girls who work better as a team, feel free to have them pair up at this point.  

  • Problem to Solve: The goal is to build a device/catapult that can throw a “snowball” (use a cotton ball or piece of paper)  
  • Identify Requirements and Limitations: Build a device that is accurate and precise using only the materials provided.  

Brainstorming Ideas for Solutions (5 min): Have the girls make a list of all possible devices that can throw a “snowball” across the room.  If you are working with younger girls who need help writing, have them draw their ideas instead! 

Select (5-10 min.): Once their lists (or drawings) are complete, have the girls weight their options and decide which one to build. After selecting their project they should draw their design, it is important to make it as detailed as possible. When working with older girls feel free to have them add additional details, such as the materials needed, etc.  

Creation: (25-30 min.): Next the girls should create their snowball thrower/catapult! Just keep in mind they may need to change their design several times as they try it out!  

  • Prototype: During the “Creation” phase girls will begin building using the materials they have been given. Traditionally this can feel chaotic, but try to embrace it! Since each girl will work at their own pace, you will want to move around the group to guide them when they feel stuck. When troubleshooting you can create your own questions or use some of these:  
  • We know this design isn’t working, but what IS working?  
  • How can you support it?  
  • Is there something you can do to make it easier to use? 
  • What ideas do you have to add?  
  • Test and Evaluate: Remind the girls that as they are testing their prototypes to continue to ask themselves questions about how it is working and what changes they can make.  
  • Iterate: As the girls make improvements based on tests be available to give feedback! It is important to let them know what is working well and help guide them if they feel stuck about how to get them to work.   

Activity Tip: We recommend setting up a “testing zone” that the girls can visit to test their catapults/throwers. If you have a designated area it will help limit the spread of “snowballs” and make clean up easier. You should also give the girls targets to hit (such as a paper, box, etc.) to help them evaluate their designs.  

Communicate Your Solution (10-15 min.): Once the girls have finished have them share their ideas with the group! When sharing ask the girls to talk about their designs, their process and why they made the choices they did. We recommend talking about engineering with the group as well. Do they think professional engineers get it right the first time? No! And that is why they do the process and prototype, just like the girls did in this activity.  

If you need inspiration, check out these videos! While these videos offer a few designs you can find many more on YouTube by searching: “popsicle stick catapult easy”.  

Congratulations, you did it! You deserve a snack, try building your own snowman!  

Ingredients: graham crackers, peanut butter or Nutella like spread, banana slices, raisins, pretzel sticks, and some sprinkles for fun.  

  1. Spread some peanut butter/Nutella on your graham cracker 
  2. Place your banana slices in place to build your snowman
  3. Add pretzel stick arms, and raisin eyes and buttons 
  4. Add the sprinkles wherever your heart desires

Post by Liz Bleacher