Kids will love the STEM challenge of working out how to build an igloo this Winter. STEM activities combine the important curriculum areas of science, technology, engineering and maths. This Build an Igloo STEM challenge give kids the opportunity to explore their own ideas, test them, evaluate them and problem solve. These are such important life skills to develop and building an igloo is such a fun way to do it!
Setting Up A Build An Igloo STEM Challenge
Obviously we need to wait until there’s some snow to build the actual igloo, but there’s nothing stopping you introducing your kids to the question of how to build an igloo and letting them explore the planning stages before the snow actually arrives.
I like to introduce my kids to the challenge and then stand right back to see what ideas and questions they come up with on their own.
A good STEM activity should allow kids to try out their ideas and this often involves GETTING IT WRONG. It’s when things don’t work out that kids have the opportunity to reevaluate and modify their ideas.
Careful prompting can get kids thinking about the areas that need consideration without giving them any of the answers. Things they’ll need to think about:
- Keeping safe – they don’t want heavy snow capsizing on them (This is an area I would intervene in!)
- Keeping warm!
- Igloo size – they could attempt to build one big enough to get in, (my boys did) or one for an action figure or toy. Width, Height, thickness of walls etc.
- Where to build the igloo? Think about the terrain, bumpy, flat, sloped etc.
- Working individually or as a team?
- Method – this is the area that’s really fun and interesting to see what ideas kids come up with. If you can it’s good to show them photos of real igloos too.
How To Make A Real Snow Igloo
If you were building an igloo for survival or as a tradition then I’m sure there are definitely right and wrong ways to do it. But for a kids STEM challenge anything goes! The challenge is in trying to make a free standing igloo using any method you like.
Some ideas my kids tried that weren’t successful!:
- Compacting snow by jumping on it and then cutting bricks using a shovel. (They found the stamping exhausting!)
- Filling a cardboard box with snow to make bricks. ( The box went soggy.)
- Building and shaping the walls of the igloo by hand, piling snow on and compacting it into shape. This was quite successful but time consuming.
How To Make An Igloo
At first they spent time at home chatting about what equipment they’d need and planning a sequence of actions.
When we were out in the snow I let them make what I could see would be mistakes so that they had the opportunity to problem solve for themselves.
I loved how this project gave the boys a super opportunity to work together as a team and really listen to each other and communicate and adapt their own ideas.
Having tried some methods that didn’t work, see above, they had to think again! Finally, spurred on by the success of the cardboard box until it went soggy and ripped, they used a plastic washing up bowl as a igloo brick mould. This was wonderfully successful and the quickest!
They drew a rough circle in the snow as a guide then simply filled a washing up bowl with snow and stamped it down to compact it.
They tipped it up to place their snow bricks onto their marked circle and repeated it until they’d gone all the way round, leaving a small gap for the door.
Then they built the next layer of their igloo using the same method but overlap the joins. They knew they had to do this from their LEGO building experience.
To make the dome they brought in each row a little so that eventually it met at the top.
Evaluating Your Homemade Igloo
My kids tried lots of different things that didn’t work before they come up with a successful method. Their sense of achievement at the end of the STEM challenge was immense and I’m so glad I stepped back and let them try out their ideas even when I could see it wouldn’t work…like when they started building on a steep slope!
Once they’d hit on the successful idea of using a washing up bowl they were able to evaluate the method and make further improvements. They started by filling the bowl by shovelling the snow in, but then they realised that is was quicker to make a first scoop of the snow with the bowl itself and then just top it up using the shovel.
Once the igloo was built they also realised their initial circle had been too small and the finished igloo only accommodated one person at a time although they had planned to be able to both fit in.
This design and make build an igloo STEM challenge gave my kids plenty of opportunities to develop and test their ideas, plan, make and evaluate their construction process and final igloo and to work together as a team. And of course they had an immense amount of fun doing it and enjoyed knocking it down when they’d finished with it too!
Looking for more great STEM/STEAM ideas? You’ll Love the new STEAM Kids book!
SAFETY TIP WHEN MAKING AN IGLOO
Never leave children unattended with the igloo in case it collapses. Never build the igloo up high as compacted snow is heavy if it should fall!
MORE GREAT WINTER ACTIVITIES TO TRY: