Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Design Challenge - Marshmallow Style

What happens when you put 20 kindergarten teachers in a room and a bunch of marshmallows?  Magic!  The kindergarten teachers came together for a ReThink day full of wonder and creativity.  They started off with a marshmallow challenge.  This challenge was a spinoff of the famous marshmallow challenge.  The well-known marshmallow challenge uses 20 strands of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string and 1 marshmallow.  The object is to construct the tallest structure placing the marshmallow on top within 18 minutes.  Our challenge in the iLearn studio was slightly different because of the materials provided.  The teachers were provided with 20 coffee stirrers, 5 large straws, 2 Twizzlers®, and 14 marshmallows.  They also needed to create the tallest structure using those materials with 18 minutes to complete it. 

There was a lot of laughter, excitement and talking around the activity, but what the teachers discovered was they needed to work together collaboratively by communicating plans and ideas as well as problem solve.  One of the most important discoveries was the idea of prototyping and iterations to that prototype in order to get a freestanding structure.

Many groups had success building a freestanding structure and others wanted us to take the picture fast before theirs’ toppled over!  The highest structure stood at 27 inches.

The teachers were provided with kits to take back to their classrooms in order for them to implement the activity with their kindergarten students.  There was one teacher who took it back and did with her students the next day!  Before the teachers met again to reflect on the activity they all had their students complete the activity.  Here is one teacher’s experience:

Ms. Goines quote and class experience:  “We did the Marshmallow Challenge today! Very fun and quite interesting. You really get a picture of student social dynamics. Frustrating for many as they just wanted to make it stand. Turned into a lesson on working through frustrations, compromising, perseverance, and knowing that it's okay if something "fails." Best part: tallest student structure was 12"...4" taller than our teacher (group) structure on training day. Yes!”

Teachers and students alike discovered some of the same elements needed to complete the task.  It was a fun learning experience for all!

By: Karen Wilson, STEM Coach

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