5 Holiday Decoration Projects for Your STEM Classroom

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That's right, make math and Christmas collide (in a good way) this Christmas!  Not only will you be bringing good cheer to your doting students, but you will be reinforcing math awareness, boosting math-itude, and giving students valuable practice with the fundamentals.  These projects are great for all ages, in the family or school classroom. 

1. Tree Garland made with Cupcake Wrappers:

All you need for this simple and rewarding activity is a length of twine or yarn, cupcake wrappers in holiday colors and/or patterns, glue (Elmer's glue is fine, but you may need hot glue if you used metallic cupcake wrappers like I did), and a small jewel to glue to the top of each tree for the star (optional).  I love this garland because it is easy to make, simple for kids to take home, and quick to add cheer to any corner of your home! This is a wonderful opportunity to teach little fingers the joy of folding paper.  Origami is The Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures and is a favorite activity in the math classroom.  Fine motor skills and proper folding techniques are essential for successful origami practice later on and this will reinforce those skills now.  This activity is also the perfect time to talk about dividing things into thirds, since students will be folding cupcake wrappers twice to make 3 parts.  The cupcake wrappers will be fashioned into darling little trees to place upon some holiday twine!  Follow the steps below to make your Christmas tree garland. 

All you need to do is to place the trees together, wrong sides facing each other.  Put just a dab of glue in the top corner of the tree, and press firmly.  Allow to dry.  Affix your jewel to the top for the star.  Your garland is now ready to place upon the twine.  No hole punching or stringing the garland is needed!  Just hang your twine where you want it and place the wrappers atop the twine (one wrapper on each side, like the trees are giving the twine a hug :o).  That's all! 

2. Stem Marshmallow Sculpture Tree Ornament:

This activity is the classic marshmallow toothpick geometric sculpture, with some metallic paint added to the finished product!  Hint:  Allow the marshmallow structures to dry overnight, or until hardened before spraying with paint.  My girls even sprinkled glitter on top of the wet paint. 

This is perfect for the multi-age classroom or any cold, rainy day when you need a quick activity.  Kids can opt to make 2 or 3-dimensional figures, and can make them as simple or complex as they like.  I love to have the students count the number of vertices, edges, faces their figures have.  It's fun to compare and contrast all the different shapes.  It's also great to take a minute to identify your shapes and even notice any patterns.  Third Grade Love has a Geometric Solid freebie available if you would like to make a whole lesson of it.   If you like, attach a ribbon to the top so that you can hang these beautiful ornaments on the tree, or you can do what my girls did and adorn the top of our piano with them.  These are such a versatile, fun, educational craft project! 

3.  Felt Tree Table Centerpiece using Foam Cones

This is a great activity in order to help kids remember what a cone is, and to strengthen those important fine motor activity skills.  Felt is a wonderful medium for kids to work with because the texture makes it easy to cut, stretch, and even attach things to it!  Felt circles or tiny pom-poms will affix directly to the felt without any glue.  This makes it fun for the young kids because they can just decorate their trees again, and again, and again....:o)  When they decide they are finished, you can glue them on if you want something more permanent for the holiday table. 

We cut large pieces of felt, wound it around foam cones (found in the Walmart craft section), glued the felt to the cone, trimmed the extra fabric and then decorated them. 

My oldest wanted to cut long strips from felt, while the younger girls wanted the mini itty-bitty pom-poms.  I love the variety and think it makes the cutest table centerpiece.  Tip: for older students, introduce the formula for finding the surface area of a cone and have them figure it out! 

4.  Circle String Art Ornaments

We did these ornaments for our own tree last year, and for a little math class I taught at the homeschool co-op and it was a huge hit!  The materials are super affordable and are probably things that you already have lying around. Cardboard circles, scissors, and yarn.  Yep!  That's it!  But this year, we decided to add some pizazz to our cardboard circles by spraying them with metallic gold paint (yes, we must be on a gold kick!). 

Simply cut cardboard circles (any size!) out of any leftover boxes you have lying around.  Spray with metallic paint, allow to dry.  Then, cut little grooves around the circles and wind yard around, creating a pattern. 

It's fun to layer different colors of yarn or to wind more than 1 color of yarn at a time.  You can make the ornaments huge and hang them on your front door, or make them small for your tree! 

5.  Cubism Ornament Refrigerator Art + practice mixing warm and cool colors

There is just something about sitting down with a paint brush and palette of freshly mixed colors.  I think, especially with the bustle of holiday activities, a little time to sit and relax through painting is just what the doctor ordered!  This cubism art is perfect for experimenting with color mixing, and arriving at cool and warm colors.  Patterns abound here! I found this activity for a cubist christmas tree art on a wonderful blog called Kids Artists and loved the idea!  I tweaked it just a bit by cutting out the image and gluing it to the background.  I think it makes it pop just a bit more.  I also prefer to work with watercolors as it gives it a more textured look. For another fun "mathy" art project, try their "Colorful Christmas Trees Tutorial."  Fantastic! 

First, take 2 pieces of watercolor paper.  Get out your compass and draw a large circle on one of the papers.  I love any project that helps kids feel comfortable operating a compass!  Then, with a ruler and a pencil, draw a whole bunch of lines criss-crossing each other at many different angles.   Make sure you have done this with both papers.

Next, cut out the circle.  With a gold metallic paint pen, outline all the lines in the circle and color in every other triangle (or so....it doesn't need to be exact).  Then, take the silver metallic paint pen and outline the other papers lines, also coloring in some of the triangles. 

The idea is that the paper with the circle will be colored with warm shades, while the other paper will be shaded with cool shades.  Get out your watercolors and mix a few different shades of warm reds.  Paint in every empty space in the circle.  Now, mix a few different shades of cool blues, turquoises and/or greens.  Color the empty spaces in the silver paper. 

Glue the warm circle to the cool paper and then cut out a little hanger for your ornament.  Hang on the refrigerator or frame for your wall!  If you like Cubism, you will need to check out this artist.  He has a huge variety of subjects and many are a wonderful addition to your math classroom. 

Many of the above art projects do not require much in the way of supplies, can be done in minimal time, and can be adapted for different ages by varying the complexity of each project.  Make math fun in your classroom, and add some holiday cheer to your classroom walls at the same time.  Happy Holidays from Multiplication.com!