Cupcakes are one of the simplest things to do as a fun activity in class. It can get expensive, but with some shopping savy and creativity, it's not so bad. It takes anywhere from 2-15 minutes for students to completely decorate a cupcake, and usually I let my students do at least two each. They also get to eat them of course, and if I'm quick about it, some really cool photos come out from the activity too.
I make the cupcakes the night before. However, if there are ovens handy I would allow students to mix it too. This can become a pretty easy lesson on measurements (math & science content areas). Steamers would also work, although the cake mix recipe will have to be tweaked a little.
- cupcakes (I make them the night before)
- white frosting
- food dye (to make the frosting different colors)
- popsicle sticks (for students to apply frosting - cheaper than plastic spoons and just as re-useable)
- wax paper (to make frosting bags, roll into a cone and cut off the tip; I would only use these for 7th+ grades)
- toothpicks (also only for older students; to adjust frosting/toppings into more intricate designs)
- paper plates
- wipes, damp clothes, napkins, and extra trash bags for clean up; it's best to take out the trash from this activity yourself. I hate ants in the classroom, so I don't take any chances. Also, be nice to the school janitorial staff. They have it rough.
- plastic baggies for students to transport their cupcakes/toppings home
And of course toppings! Jelly beans, nerds, licorice sticks, nuts (beware allergies), dried fruit cut up into small pieces, granola, etc. Regular sprinkles that come in the jars can get expensive so I don't use these too much. I believe the off-beat toppings get better results anyway, especially with the younger ones.
I wouldn't do this kind of thing as a routine thing. Reserve it for only special occasions: first/last day of school, holidays involving food (i.e. Thanksgiving, heritage food festivals). I would also only do this during the last part of the day, mainly because students can get pretty crazy after having experienced something so out of the ordinary. Clean-up can be chaotic unless orchestrated down to the very minute details (this piece of advice is applicable to any and all activities - it is also one that I don't take to heart very well unless I've had tons of planning and prep time). For all students, the eating part would be a good time for a read aloud, or some sort of video. I tend to pick educational ones, not just movies, but it's up to each teacher. Travel or nature videos are good choices.
Other potential lesson plans include but are not limited to:
- nutrition/where food comes from (flour is made of wheat, etc)
- art and design
- community/professions (I've never done it this way, but in theory you can get a local baker to come in and talk about their work; maybe they'll donate materials too if you ask nicely)
Best of all, any left-overs are for teachers only!