A Family-Style Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Homeschool Unit Study

This Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Secondary unit study is generally for students working at a middle to high school level.

Feel free to mix and match with the Primary and Intermediate posts to find activities that best suit your children and their learning styles.

To add in younger students for a family-style unit study, use the Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Primary and Intermediate posts.

This Polar Express & Hot Chocolate unit study uses Living Books, and hands-on STEAM activities along with English Language Arts, History, Devotions, Poetry, and Folktales.

Some links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on them, I may make a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.

Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Unit Study English Language Arts

Independent Reading

The True Story of Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas by William J. Bennett tells the story of the real Saint Nicholas, who was a Christian bishop in Myra (current-day Turkey).

This book also describes the legends associated with Saint Nicholas and the legacy he left behind, all over the world.

This book is appropriate for those who do not “believe” in Santa. The author, Mr. Bennett was Secretary of Education under President Reagan. Available on Kindle and Audible

Aunt Sass: Christmas Stories is a series of Christmas stories written by P. L. Travers (who also wrote Mary Poppins). These stories were originally written in the 1940s as gifts to her friends and family and weren’t published until 2015. Aunt Sass will remind you a bit of her character Mary Poppins, but she’s not quite as sweet. This book is available on Kindle and Audible, as well.

Read Aloud Living Book

If you’ve read A Year Down Yonder or A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck, you’ll recognize the main character of this selection. Grandma Dowdel stars in A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck. Twenty years have passed and new neighbors just moved in next door. Find out how Grandma Dowdel continues to outwit and charm everyone. This book is also available on Kindle and Overdrive and the audio version is free with an Audible trial.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg was the winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal. It’s one of the most popular children’s Christmas stories and is perfect for those starting to question their belief in Santa Claus. Also available on Kindle, free with Amazon FreeTime Unlimited.


Baboushka is a Russian folktale about an old woman who has been searching for the Christ-child. Watch this retelling of the Baboushka folktale from Midnight Storytellers.

Literary Analysis

Literary analysis is important for showing comprehension of a book or text, but also for showing and developing their critical thinking skills. Have your student describe the main characters of A Season of Gifts. Use the Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Literary Analysis worksheet for Secondary students in the Free Resource Library (under Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Unit Study–Secondary).


Invent a “new” flavor of hot chocolate. Then create a slogan or ad campaign to promote your product. Use this lesson plan from Scholastic for 6th- to 8th-grade students to understand how pictures and slogans invoke a feeling that transfers to the product. Then they can create a commerical for their hot chocolate using what they learned. For high schoolers, use this lesson from Read Write Think to learn about the persuasive techniques used in advertising and then develop their own advertisement for their new hot chocolate flavor.


A Visit From Saint Nicholas by Clement C. Moore is often called by the first line of the poem, “Twas the night before Christmas”. This iconic poem, written in 1832, is probably the most famous ever written by an American. (However, there has been some debate over the last hundred years as to who actually wrote the poem. To learn more about those claims, read this article from My Merry Christmas.) Then, listen to this incredible collaboration between composer John Williams (of Stars Wars fame), the Boston Pops Orchestra and narrator/actor Robin Williams.


Copywork and narration are a real-life way to work on grammar skills. Use the Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Secondary Copywork and Narration page from the Free Resource Library. After your student has written the sentence from dictation, let her see the original to check it with her work. Have her correct her work, so that she knows how it should look.

Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Unit Study STEAM


We all know that cooking and baking use math skills, especially fractions. But did you know that baking is really mostly chemistry?

There’s a definite science to the chemical reactions that make yeast-based and quick breads and cakes rise in the oven.

Science also plays a part in commercial food processing; there’s a whole industry based on creating and improving food products!

This week, use science to make your own marshmallows from scratch. It’s really not difficult and they taste so amazing!!

I’ve used this recipe from BombShellBling before and not only do they turn out fantastic, but it makes plenty to share with friends! My kids enjoyed cutting the marshmallows with small cookie cutters, too.


Chocolate was first used as a medicinal drink, but once sweetener was added to it in 18th century Europe, it became very popular.

Then, in the mid-1800s chocolatiers learned how to extract the cocoa butter and then add back the melted cocoa butter to make solid chocolate.

The industrial revolution changed how chocolate was enjoyed (mostly as a solid candy instead of a beverage) because technology-enabled chocolatiers to produce a consistent product.

Watch how chocolate is made on a very small scale in this video from Hawaiian homesteader Gabe Humpries.


Construct a marshmallow catapult using household supplies. Choose one of these three types:

Alternatively, let your kids make a marshmallow shooter. These are great fun and work much better than the store-bought ones. Here’s a video with instructions from RealRussianDaycare or print type instructions from Art of Manliness.


Fine Arts

David Mittner is a contemporary American artist with a love of trains. Check out his painting of a PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD
I1s Class 2-10-0 Decapod Mount Carmel Eruption. See his other works of art featuring trains at FineArtAmerica.

Practical Arts

My teenage daughter made these Hot Cocoa Cheesecake Minis from Lil’ Luna for a gathering of friends on a cold winter night last year. They are easy to make and look pretty fancy! She also made homemade marshmallows and this crock-pot of homemade Polar Express Hot Chocolate by The Girl Who Ate Everything.


Knowing how to pull together a simple event helps our teens learn leadership, planning, and organizational skills.

Calculate how much money it would take to provide free cookies and hot chocolate at a community service event as a way to spread Christmas joy.

Here are detailed instructions for creating your own event in real life. Use the Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Secondary Math worksheet from the Free Resource Library to figure out the costs of a project.

Polar Express & Hot Chocolate History

Read about America’s most famous chocolatier, Milton Hershey, in this Heroes of History biography by Janet and Geoff Benge: More Than Chocolate. Discover how Mr. Hershey persevered despite failures; his life was the quintessential American dream.

Also, continue your study of the real Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, with this documentary, St. Nicholas: The Real Story on Amazon.


Listen to the Polar Express soundtrack while you are making hot chocolate and wrapping Christmas presents. You can stream it free if you have Amazon Prime or find it on Hoopla. As a fine arts extension, discuss the different moods the music envokes.


In the Polar Express movie, the conductor punches the word “believe” into his train ticket. Believing in something is the same thing as having faith. Read these Bible verses with your kids and discuss what it means to have faith.

  • Deut. 7:9
  • Matt. 17:20
  • Rom. 5:1
  • Rom. 10:17
  • 1 Cor. 13:2
  • 1 Cor. 16:13

More Ideas for Your Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Unit Study

Watch the movie Polar Express for a family fun night and drink hot chocolate.

Encourage your teen to organize a community service event like this one to spread Christmas joy.

Be sure to follow my Pinterest board Christmas Time Homeschooling for more great hands-on activities and ideas for your Polar Express & Hot Chocolate unit study!

Don’t forget to pin this post so you can refer back to it during your Polar Express & Hot Chocolate unit study.

polar express unit study

One Reply to “Polar Express & Hot Chocolate Unit Study for Secondary Learners”

  1. Kandy Newman says:

    I love this unit and all ur ideas! Thank u!!

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