STEAM for a Holiday Classic

One of my favorite Christmas read-alouds is The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie de Paola. I love it because it hits so many learning objectives as well as including Christmas traditions from Mexico, some of which are still practiced today.

The Legend of the Poinsettia is obviously folk literature that lends itself very well to a discussion of the characteristics of a legend and a discussion of folk literature, traditional literature, and oral tradition, but what I really love about the book is its potential for STEAM activities. I love to bring in live poinsettias for a botany lesson because most people don’t notice that the colorful part of the poinsettia is not actually the flower but a portion of the leaves that change color near Christmastime in its native habitat of Mexico. I love to have students make poinsettia models with paper and chenille wire, tracing the same shape from both red or white and green paper to notice that the red parts are also leaves. Since I lived in Mexico earlier in my life, I also have a picture of a tree-sized poinsettia like the one that grew next to my driveway in those days. Red and yellow beads can represent the actual flower at the center.

Another fun activity is weaving since much of the story is about Lucida’s efforts to weave a new blanket for the Baby Jesus. There are so many forms of weaving that depending on the age of the students, paper, yarn, or traditional indigenous stick looms like the one in the story give the opportunity to make a gift for a parent or friend. Here is an explanation of a basic cardboard loom that is suitable for school-aged children.

There are many opportunities for STEAM spin-offs from this book and I hope children get to try them all. Merry Christmas.

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