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Winter STEM: Ice Lanterns

I love a good STEM activity, and today's was one of my favourites! It is perfect for the winter holidays, or to just brighten up a grey winter day. You will need a few supplies: 2 sizes of plastic cups, water, food colouring, small pebbles or clothes pins, battery operated tea lights or regular tea light candles, and whatever decorative elements you have on hand (we used small pom poms, glitter, pipe cleaners and small craft gems). 

Our finished ice lanterns

Step 1: You will need to make sure that one of your cups can fit inside the other, because this is what will end up creating your lantern shape. Pour some water into the larger cup - the amount of water depends on how tall you want your lantern to be. Remember that when you place the other cup inside and weigh it down, the amount of water inside the larger cup will become displaced and rise. We wanted taller lanterns, so we poured a fair amount on water in our larger cups. 

Step 2: This is where you will need the craft supplies you've gathered! My amazing teacher candidate had some really fun and colourful craft supplies, but anything you have on hand would do. Add a few drops of food colouring to each cup of water - we chose not to mix colours this time, but this could be a great opportunity to learn about colour mixing if you wanted to incorporate that. Next, add whatever fun stuff you want! My students were pretty heavy handed with the glitter!

Here are some of our supplies, the Christmas tree tray is full of various colours of glitter

Step 3: Now you need to place the smaller cup inside, and ensure it is weighed down enough that the lantern will be deep enough to hold a tea light. We used some small pebbles to weigh the cup down, and placed packing tape over top. However, in hind sight I think using clothes pins to clamp the cups together would have worked well also.

Step 4: Freeze the cups, ensuring that they remain upright. It took a few hours in the freezer for ours to become solid. 

Step 5: Once they are completely solid, you can pull the smaller cup out of the lantern. From there we made a small cut into the outer cup and simply peeled it off. We then placed our tea lights inside and marvelled at how beautiful they were. 

The finished product!

The students were really excited about the final product, and truthfully, I was as well. They are just so pretty. If you wanted a more traditional holiday look, you could skip the food colouring and add things like evergreen branches and holly berries. 

Hopefully, you enjoy this activity as much as we did! 


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