The Marshmallow Challenge is going to get you through May, I promise. It is that time of year. The time you look forward to all year. But, when it arrives can be difficult, busy, and overall chaotic. May has arrived.
It is tempting to want students quietly working in their seats, but the reality is that is more difficult than planning some fun, engaging activities. That is where “The Marshmallow Challenge” proves to be helpful.
THe Marshmallow challenge
“The Marshmallow Challenge” was originally designed as a leadership and business exercise to be used to jump start a meeting or team. The first time I participated in this was as a team building exercise during a professional development. It is handy for teaching others to work together, problem solve, and communicate.
With a little more structure, it is easily transferable to a classroom of students.
I would suggest groups of three or four, no more. Since there are limited resources, this group size allows everyone to participate easily.
materials Per group
- 1 large marshmallow
- 20 pieces of spaghetti
- 1 yard of tape
- 1 yard of string
- 1 pair of scissors
- 1 paper bag to place all of the materials
Assemble enough bags for your classroom and staple them closed.
Explain to students that everyone has equal supplies and the goal is to create the tallest freestanding structure, however the marshmallow must be on top. All group members must participate and work together.
The official challenge calls for 18 minutes, but depending on your class you may want to extend that to 30 minutes. I would suggest displaying a timer, so that students can pace themselves.
Depending on the age and maturity level of the students you might even consider breaking up the time into a brainstorming portion and a working portion.
Hopefully, at least one group is able to construct a tall structure that is study enough to hold the marshmallow. Depending on what learning you want to focus on, you can discuss some follow up questions:
- What was difficulty?
- What did you not anticipate?
- What would you do differently?
- How did your team interact?
- Did you team’s interactions impact the result?
- What mathematical skills did you apply?
- What scientific skills did you apply?
- Given the challenge again, how would you fare?
Try it out, the kids will love it! A great way to incorporate problem solving and thinking skills into a fun end of the year activity.