For the Love of FACS

Engineering a Holiday Classic

Gingerbread house

Designing and  constructing a gingerbread house is the ultimate baking project, traditionally undertaken during the holiday season, which makes it the perfect seasonal FACS project!  Typically a holiday gingerbread house is a slope-roofed confectionery structure covered with candy and dripping with frosting.  However, a gingerbread structure that exemplifies a specific architectural style can be appreciated any time of year.  Designing and creating a gingerbread house can give students experience in the science of baking, the engineering of constructing a stable structure, and the elements of architectural styles.

malibu gingerbread house


Architecture is a complex discipline which combines structural engineering with art. Designing a building that is structurally sound is the fundamental goal, but there are many other factors to be considered, as well. Buildings must be engineered to provide comfortable spaces for the people who will reside or work there while also being safe and environmentally responsible. Architecture is the discipline which enhances basic structures by incorporating pleasing aesthetics in their design.

You don’t have to be an engineer or an architect to construct the perfect gingerbread house, but an understanding of the basic principles of structural engineering and design will greatly enhance your chances of constructing a stable and aesthetically pleasing example of sweet architecture. When you understand the properties of the materials and their relationship to the overall design of the gingerbread structure, you can avoid many of the problems that may lead to catastrophic collapse.

Becoming a Gingerbread Architect

1. Select the architectural style for your gingerbread house.

  • Cape Cod
  • Victorian
  • Ranch
  • Bungalow
  • Prairie
  • Georgian
  • Saltbox
  • Federal
  • Colonial
  • Split level

2. Research and identify the basic architectural features of the housing style selected.

3. Using a basic gingerbread house template, design your gingerbread house.

4. Create a “parts list” of edible design elements required to complete your design.

5.  Prepare gingerbread dough.

gingerbread pieces

6. Cut and bake the pieces of your gingerbread house.

7. Select a sturdy base for your house enough to accommodate the structure as well as basic landscaping.

8. Construct the gingerbread house using Ornamental Frosting.  Allow to set overnight.

9. Add edible design elements appropriate to selected architectural style.

10. Add landscape features.

Identified as Sweet Architecture the complete 14-page activity for engineering a gingerbread house is available as a free download from the Fresh FACS website.  Download includes complete project directions, recipes, construction tips and templates and support materials.

Happy holidays!



FACS Careers, FACS Engineering, FACS Image Shake Up, Family and Consumer Science Education, FCS, For the Love of FACS, In Stitches, Save FACS, STEAM in the FACS Classroom, Techno FACS, Textiles, fashion and apparel

Sew Much More STEAM!

FACS Full STEAM Ahead definition

Next-Gen Sewing: e-Fashion

Yesterday we looked at how you can add value to the content of a traditional Textiles, Apparel and Fashion curriculum by identifying areas where STEAM concepts are introduced and applied.  Today we’re venturing into new territory as we explore the topic of e-Fashion, also known as wearable electronics.

Adding a wearable electronics or e-Fashion component to you existing Textiles, Apparel and Fashion curriculum will add spark (literally and figuratively) to your sewing program.  Electronic textiles, also known as soft circuits, are electrical circuits created using flexible conductive materials (such as conductive threads and fabrics) in conjunction with discrete electronics components (such as lights, batteries, switches, and sensors).  Smart textiles are enhanced with technology that makes textiles and apparel both functional and fashionable.

Learning to design and engineer soft circuits of increasing complexity is an empowering and formative STEAM experience for students in Family and Consumer Science courses.  These activities encourage students to consider technology in a creative context, and creativity in a more technical format.  Providing students with the technical understanding necessary to complete projects utilizing soft circuits encourages creative problem-solving and design skills.

LED Shoes Cut
TwinkLED Toes Shoe Clips

To learn more about e-Fashion and STEAM, check out our TwinkLED Toes, An Introduction to Next Gen Textiles  FREE downloadable lesson on our website.  The lesson includes standards, competencies, STEAM vocabulary, Project Summary page, Project Reference Sheet, Troubleshooting guide, and student Project Sheet.  This simple and inexpensive activity makes a great introduction to the exciting new world of digital sewing.

As always, I’d love to hear from you, our FACS friends!  Have you had experience with wearable technology in your classroom?  Are you interested in learning more about e-Fashion?  We welcome your comments!

Family and Consumer Science Education, FCS, For the Love of FACS, In Stitches, Save FACS, STEAM in the FACS Classroom, Textiles, fashion and apparel

Sew Much STEAM!

FACS Full STEAM Ahead definition

A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation entitled FACS: Full STEAM Ahead to a delightful group of FACS educators in Birmingham, AL.  The presentation highlights the many areas of FACS that offer opportunities to incorporate STEAM into the existing FACS curriculum.  In my remarks I emphasized the extensive STEAM connections  offered in Textiles, Fashion, and Apparel courses, a FACS content area that sadly is not currently offered in the majority of schools.  I shared several examples of the STEAM relevance of textiles and sewing to underscore my position that these courses should once again be part of the FACS curriculum.

Following my presentation, a passionate FACS educator pleaded with me to contact the director at her school to let her offer classes in textiles and apparel again.  As evidence of her preparedness to offer quality instruction in this area, the teacher showed me photos of the beautifully-appointed classroom set up with 30 new sewing machines, cutting tables and everything else that students would need to be successful in this vital program.  The space is beautiful, spacious, well-appointed and new!  I agreed with the teacher that it is a crime to deny students access to this area and agreed to curate some talking points that she could use to try to convince her program director to allow her to teach textiles and apparel.

I happily agreed to try and help out this dedicated and enthusiastic FACS educator!  However, upon reflection, I decided that instead of sending this list of STEAM attributes just to this administrator, I would share it with the FACS community in case there are more of you fighting to save or revive Textiles, Fashion, and Apparel programs all across the country.  BTW:  You may all feel free to print or otherwise share this list with anyone you feel needs to be better informed on this subject!

National Standards for Family and Consumer Sciences Education, Area of Study 16.0

Comprehensive Standard:  Integrate knowledge, skills, and practices required for careers in textiles and apparel.

Science–The study of the natural world

  • Identification, comparison and analysis of textile fibers and fabrics.
  • Evaluation of performance characteristics of textile fibers and fabrics.
  • Analysis of the characteristics of textile components in design construction, care, use, maintenance, and disposal or recycling of products.
  • Evaluation of fibers and fabrics for care and sustainability factors.
  • Testing and analyzing various textile finishes for aesthetic, functional, chemical and mechanical finishes.
  • Testing fabrics for shrinkage.
  • Testing fabrics for flame resistance and flame retardant properties.
  • Experimenting with the application of dyes and other color applications.
  • Selecting and preparing fabrics for projects.  Ex.  preshrinking, checking grain, straightening the grain, etc.

Technology–Any product made by humans to meet a want or a need.

  • Identifying , selecting and effectively using cutting tools used in garment design and construction.  Ex. shears, scissors, rotary cutters, pinking and scalloping shears, thread clippers, seam rippers, etc.
  • Identifying, selecting and effectively using marking tools.  Ex. carbon paper, tracing wheels, marking pens, tailor’s chalk, etc.
  • Identifying, selecting and effectively using sewing needles and pins.  Ex. Sharps, betweens, crewel or embroidery needles, ballpoint, universal, dressmaker’s pins, silk pins, ball point pins, etc.
  • Identifying and selecting sewing notions appropriate to project design and function.  Ex.  thread, fasteners, tapes and trims, elastics, interfacings, etc.
  • Identifying, selecting and effectively using pressing equipment.  Ex.  steam iron, press cloth, sleeve board, seam roll, pressing ham.
  • Proficiently and safely operating all types of sewing machines.  Ex. Basic, digital, embroidery, sergers, etc.
  • Caring for and maintaining all types of sewing machines.
  • Interpreting labels and hangtags used on textiles and apparel products.

Engineering–The design process through which problems are solved.

  • Interpreting pattern markings and using them effectively and appropriately.  Ex. alterations to length, width, etc.
  • Selecting sewing patterns suitable for body type, functionality, and general project design.
  • Selection of fabrics appropriate for pattern, style, body type and functionality of garment design.
  • Laying out pattern pieces to make the best use of fabric.
  • Placing pattern pieces to adjust for nap or patterned fabrics.
  • Transferring pattern marking to fabric pieces.
  • Accurately cutting fabric pattern pieces.
  • Selecting and implementing proper seam treatments.  Ex.  trimming, grading, clipping and notching, machine zigzag, overcast, etc.
  • Selecting and implementing proper hem finishes.  Ex.  slip stitch, blind stitch, hem stitch, catch stitch, fused hem, etc.
  • Selecting and implementing proper garment closures.  Ex.  buttons and buttonholes, snaps. hooks and eyes, hook-and-loop tape, etc.
  • Repairing, redesigning, restyling. and recycling articles of clothing to extend or repurpose their usefulness

Art–The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.

  • Evaluating the ways in which fiber, fabric, texture, pattern, and finish affect visual appearance.
  • Applying basic and complex color schemes and color theory to develop and enhance visual effects.
  • Utilizing elements and principles of design in designing, constructing, and/or altering textiles, fashion, and apparel.  Ex.  repetition, texture, mirroring, scale, composition, etc.
  • Demonstrating design concepts using fiber, fabric or digital means, in creating original fabric, garment or other textile projects.
  • Utilizing computer, software and related digital technology to create original patterns and fabric designs.  Ex.  Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.
  • Applying an understanding of pattern motifs to fabric selection and fabric design.  Ex.  geometric, floral, ethnic, conversational, etc.
  • Experimenting with various fabric printing methods.  Ex.  hand printing, digital printing, mass production, etc.

Math–The language of numbers, shapes and quantities.

  • Determining figure type based on height and proprotion.
  • Taking body measurements to determine pattern size.  Ex.  bust or chest, waist, hip, etc.
  • Converting fabric yardage based on different widths of fabric.
  • Calculating the cost of a sewing project.
  • Accurately using appropriate measuring tools.  Ex.  tape measure, sewing gauge, cutting mat, quilting rulers, etc.
  • Measuring to determine necessary pattern adjustments.
  • Measuring to determine and adjust garment hem.
  • Determining appropriate stitch length based on fabric, stitch technique, and the construction process.
  • Measuring for placement and even distribution of garment closures.
  • Calculating and comparing the cost of ready made garments.
  • Comparing discounts and other savings offered by discount, department and specialty stores.
  • Applying basic geometry concepts to modern quilting techniques.

In Summary

Textiles and Apparels classes offer some of the most obvious connections to STEAM within the existing FACS curriculum, so any administrator who is serious about an emphasis on STEAM across the curriculum should be happy to support a program with the depth and diversity of this content area.  I should also point out that virtually all of the STEAM connections noted here also apply to instruction in the area of Interior Design.  In fact, the math connections are even more obvious and challenging in ID.  I hope that this post will provide you with some factual data that will help you in your efforts to bring back textiles, fashion, and apparel!

We have two resources that you might also find helpful!  Check them out on our website