The Great Christmas Fair Drive pt.1: Do you wanna build a snowman...?

I know it’s still 41 days until Christmas, but I also know that a lot of schools will be thinking about Christmas Fairs and what each class can do to raise money that is so desperately needed for silly things like books and pencils.  

So, in a rather fleeting blog post this week (I have essays to write, articles to critique, and dogs to bathe - if anyone has Instagram success tips, please tweet me!), I present the first of three tried and tested methods of fundraising that not only engage children but also teach them a thing or two.

Melting Snowmen - English, Maths, Science and DT (a little)
(Festive Tiffin Treats)

These delicious chocolate treats are a simple, no-bake recipe that look adorable and taste amazing.  Plus, there’s a little bit of fruit in them so you can say they are healthy!

To make 2 snowmen, you will need:

For the tiffin:
  • 50g chocolate
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 digestive biscuit
  • 30g dried fruit

For the covering:
  • 20g marzipan
  • 30g white fondant icing
  • 4 small chocolate beans
  • 1 strawberry lace
  • Dark writing icing for the eyes/nose
  • White/clear icing for glue

  • Rolling pin
  • Mat for rolling icing/marzipan
  • Icing sugar (to prevent sticking)
  • 68mm cookie cutter (round)
  • 2 cupcake cases
  • Jam
  • Cupcake tin
  • Microwaveable bowl.

  1. Melt chocolate - 20-30 seconds in microwave (800w) - stir, repeat until smooth.
  2. Break digestive biscuit into small pieces, no bigger than a thumbnail, and add to melted chocolate.
  3. Stir in the fruit.
  4. Mix until everything is completely covered in chocolate.
  5. Place cupcake cases into cupcake tin.
  6. Divide the mixture between the two cases and press down with a spoon to flatten.
  7. Divide marzipan into two equal parts.
  8. Roll marzipan into a small ball and flatten with fingers until it covers the top of the tiffin.
  9. Place marzipan on top of the tiffin and press to secure.
  10. Roll out the icing and cut 2 circles with the cookie cutter.
  11. Place a circle of icing on top of the marzipan, glueing down with a little bit of jam.
  12. Roll the remaining icing into 2 balls.
  13. Dot clear icing onto the middle of the tiffin and glue one ball onto each piece.
  14. Wrap ½ a strawberry lace around the ball allowing the end to rest. Trim if necessary.
  15. Draw on eyes and mouth with dark writing icing.
  16. Use clear icing to glue on a chocolate bean nose and two chocolate bean buttons.

Do not refrigerate!

The English lesson:
Everybody gets bored when it comes to procedural writing.  How many times can you write sandwich instructions for a robot to follow?  I mean seriously. So, there are options here.  

You can have the children bake-along with you as you display the original instructions.  Insist they make notes as they go. They then have to write their own instructions based on those notes.  So far, so bland.

So why not watch a couple of YouTube clips of some very different chefs?  I like to use omelette recipe videos by Deliah Smith and Jamie Oliver.  Both are experts but both are vastly different.  It is a great way to test out success criteria for procedural writing and to show the difference between formal and informal writing/presentation (it also shows children how easy it is to make an omelette).  Watch both videos a couple of times and make notes with the children on the language and style. Then allow the children to choose a style for their own procedural writing. 

 As a bonus, have some of these written up for display (instant display, with photos of the baking) and you have your Christmas Fair environment sorted as well as the goods to sell!

The Maths lesson:
This recipe is for 2 snowmen.  To make sure you have enough ingredients for the whole class, you need to scale it up.  That’s multiplication. Have the children work out how much of each ingredient they would need to make 60 snowmen (30 children, 2 snowmen each). 

But that’s not the end.  You need to buy the ingredients.  Jump online and find out how much it will cost to buy the ingredients from various supermarkets.  You can have children work in different teams (UK - you can have Tesco, Sainsbury’s Waitrose etc.) to see where would be cheapest to buy.

This not only teaches the direct maths and comparative maths; it also introduces the life skill of shopping around.  If you’re lucky, some shops might have special offers, resulting in even more maths! It might be that you have to buy ingredients from a variety of shops.  You can then factor in the cost of having the ingredients delivered, or even (if you really want to get into it) the cost of visiting each one yourself. The basic concept is fairly simple but there are a lot of places you can go with it.

Then you need to know how much money everyone will need to contribute.  A simple matter of overall cost shared between every member of the class.  There is room for a bit of PSHCe (citizenship) here if you ask the children (or better, if they ask you) whether or not the adults should chip in?  There are debates around equality versus equity that can be addressed here, depending on the ages you teach. Should everyone pay the same amount, or should some people pay less?  If so, who decides?

After that, you have the concept of profit.  You will have a given amount of snowmen to sell.  You know how much the ingredients cost, so you know how much you need to ear to break even.  This is a concept that some of the children will not be familiar with, teach it here! Have a target in mind for the amount you want to raise.  Do you want to break records or just do well? You will also have to factor in how much you think people would be willing to pay. There is no point having 60 snowmen at £1 each if you are going to be left with 60 snowmen at the end of the fair.  This could be a simple in-class discussion, but why not make it market research and bring in some data handling? Get them to draw up a questionnaire and ask the other children at break time how much they would be willing to spend (having a picture of the product would be helpful here).  Then, back in class, collate the data and see if there is a realistic price.

When I have done this in the past, I have turned it into a whole Apprentice situation with teams of children each battling to earn the highest profit.  It was some of the easiest teaching I have ever done.

The Science lesson:
This is a bit domain-specific and in the UK, only really applies to Year 4, although younger children can introduce the concept and older children can revise it.  On a broader note, you can look at why the snowmen have melted and bring that into habitats and environments. Especially key at the moment with the whole Extinction Rebellion movement and Great Thurnberg’s climate protests.  

The properties of melting and solidifying are key in this recipe.  Why does the chocolate melt? What is happening at a structural level?  Is it a reversible process. If you have used the omelette videos for English, you can bring those back in as a non-reversible process.   If your school will let you, you can make some omelettes to prove this.  

You can also look at the nutritional content of the food.  I made the joke earlier that this very sugary treat is healthy because it contains fruit.  Is that true? What a great investigation opportunity. Why not go and explore some of the ‘healthy’ snack foods and compare sugar content against the WHO daily recommendations?  

When I did this with a class of 10-11-year-olds, they were shocked that many foods and drinks were a double serving but the nutritional advice was based around a single serving.  Is this ethical (again, back with the citizenship, a little bit of English as well [writing to persuade])?  

Again, depending on the children and your school, you could look at what ‘energy’ means by burning sugar (if you have access to some sulphuric acid, you can do this, which is both incredibly visual and very cool).  On a perhaps more manageable level, you can look into how many hours of exercise it would take to burn off the calories in one snowman.  Probably best not to advertise that at the fair though!

The DT lesson:
Design Technology always used to confuse me because I didn’t have a clear differentiation between it and Art.  Until a very good DT lead teacher told me this:
DT is the three S’s:
It is the design and making of SOMETHING, for SOMEBODY, for a SPECIFIC reason or purpose.
Compare that with the Oscar Wilde quote: All art is quite useless.  Meaning, Art does not need to have a purpose or a use.  It can exist purely for its own sake.  

With that in mind, the DT I propose for this project is two-fold.  Firstly, the snowmen themselves are the SOMETHING.  They are for people to eat, so people are my SOMEBODY and the purpose is to raise money.  That’s my SPECIFIC reason. The reason is not to be eaten - some of them won’t be (be honest, you’ve bought cakes from children and thrown them away).  

So that’s the main DT aspect.  The second is the advertising, which brings in some English work as well (back to persuasion).  The children have to sell these things, so they need to advertise them. A lovely poster should do the trick.  But why not design a whole campaign? A digital one, if your school has a Twitter or Facebook account, or a post on the school blog?  It can be a short video; a static image; a viral tik-tok-style short… the possibilities are bound only by the children’s imagination and your school's willingness to explore what ‘schoolwork’ means.

There are of course other subjects that can be brought in.  You can draw the snowmen for art (shading skills; life drawing; using different media - a junk-model of a giant melted snowman would certainly draw a crowd).  You can write and learn a song or jingle for music (or, if you’re not confident enough to write a song, you could explore jingles and the use of effective hooks in music - I recommend looking at the ‘do, do, do, do, doo’ of McDonald’s and the main riff of AC/DC’s Back in Black).  PE you can link back to the science of burning off the caloric intake.  RE - look at festivals celebrated with food and the importance of food within all major religions.  Computing could involve a digital animation of a melting snowman or writing code that shows what happens when you heat chocolate and eggs, with another function to show them cooled again. is great for this.  MFL - translate the recipe into different languages…

There’s so much you can do.  There is so much you can assess as well, and all without the children really realising that they’re learning.  It can take a little as an afternoon or as long as the rest of the term. And let’s face it, with nativity rehearsals, surprise elections and absences due to flu, isn’t a project-based approach the only way to survive the second half of the Autumn term?

I hope this has been useful.  I will be posting another Christmas Fair idea next week with the same lesson ideas attached.  If you give these snowmen a go, please, please take some pictures and tweet them to me (details below), I’d love to see them!

If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned, please get in touch.  The comments section below is a great place (it also helps to show the Blog host that people are engaging with my content!), or you can email or tweet me.  Have a great week and I’ll see you….

WAIT!  I need to mention SVR Education!  This new education company is run by teachers who are very highly qualified.  They have a child-centred approach to education which informs the materials they produce (I say this because I have written some assessments for them so I know how particular they are).  They have a range of English and Maths resources for all age groups and they are releasing a fantastic new maths-based card game very soon!

Okay, thanks for reading this.  Please tell everybody you know about - retweet it, recommend it, print it out and stick it to a fox, I’d love to reach (and hear from) as many people as possible.  Look after yourselves and smile at some strangers, you might just make their day!

Carl Headley-Morris