Friday, December 21, 2012

Gingerbread House Workshop: A Holiday STEAM Program

We all know how much I enjoy adding STEM aspects to my craft programs--to offer STEAM programs for the children who visit my library. This week we were able to offer a five-hour drop-in Gingerbread House Workshop for the kiddos. It was flexible, so families with varying schedules could attend as it suited them; it was festive and helped to celebrate the holiday season; and it was, at its core, both an engineering and an art activity.

Remember how I mentioned rinsing out all those milk cartons the other day? Those milk cartons served as the framework for the children's gingerbread houses. A colleague and I created plates with all the major building materials: milk carton frame, graham cracker bricks, and embellishments in the form of Necco wafers, candy corn, pretzels, peppermints, mini marshmallows, and licorice bites. These items were ready for gingerbread house assembly on all of our six covered tables. The construction glue--white icing--was set out on every table within easy reach. All these supplies may sound expensive, but the program ended up coming in at $0.74 per participant.

This program worked remarkably well for a few reasons. First of all, because we had the program room open for five hours, we never had an overwhelming crowd--people came as it fit their schedules. Thus each child was able to get individual attention and praise from a library staff member while they constructing a gingerbread house. We were even able to have some great book chats during our slower stretches. Our final attendance count was 112; a high number for our program room, to be sure, but when spread out over five hours, very manageable.

The program also worked well because children could succeed in making their creations regardless of their overall skill levels. We had fifth and sixth graders taking their time to make intricate houses, and we had two-year-olds focusing quite hard to wield the icing knives properly. Children at all ability levels were able to make their very own gingerbread houses, a point of pride.

Additionally, this program is a great example of a basic STEAM program--the engineering and art aspects blend wonderfully. Children engaged their minds to figure out how to construct stable structures (the STEM side), and then they were able to add the sweet and savory embellishments to serve whatever purposes they chose (the creative, art-y side). Both sides of the brain were engaged in creating these gingerbread houses, and all the children were really cognizant of was how much fun they were having.

Clean-up was very easy for this program, especially considering its overall stickiness and the large scale. We wrapped all our leftover materials in our disposable tablecloths at the end of the five hours, and after throwing them away, all we had left was a bit of vacuuming crumbs off the floor. We did have wet wipes and paper towels in the program--after all, as every children's librarian knows, if the potential for stickiness exists, at least 95% of the children will become sticky by activity's end. A little bit of sticky was a small price to pay for such an engaging, enjoyable program.

Do you create and decorate gingerbread houses at your library? Had you ever thought of the program as a STEAM program?


  1. I'm about to go in and help with our Gingerbread House workshop today! We haven't thought of it as a STEAM program, but just last night I was trying to think about how we could add some kind of early literacy component next year. Definitely something I will keep in the back of my brain, especially considering how highly early literacy is factoring into our strategic plan.

  2. Our Gingerbread House program is a library tradition with families in our community. This year our total was 495 houses. We spend the month of December dedicated to this program. We take the program to classrooms at the request of the teachers in the community. We have observed what you mentioned in your blog....the intricacy of the older children's houses and how this may activity be adapted to even the youngest child.

    1. How do you take this program out into the community?

  3. We do a Haunted Gingerbread House program in October every year and it's always a huge hit. I never thought of it as a STEAM program before though!:


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