The basic marshmallow challenge is an ideal exercise to sharpen collaboration skills. It’s works because it’s so simple: groups of four are given 18 minutes to build the tallest free standing building they can with 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti, one yard of masking tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The time limit is important – it forces students to collaborate quickly. The competition aspect is also important – this pushes groups to work at their best.
Watch this Ted Talk about the nature of collaboration using the marshmallow challenge. It shouldn’t surprise any drama teacher that Kindergarten students produce better structures than recent business school grads.
Look at the bottom of this post to download a PDF printable reflection you can give your students after completing the marshmallow challenge. What was it like to work together to create something? Were you able to collaborate? Why or why not? How was the time spent in your group? Did the structure stand at the end of the time limit? What would you do differently given the chance to repeat the exercise?
Want to take it further and perhaps down a more theatrical path? Get students to build a marshmallow set. Give them the same parameters – work with unlikely materials within an 18 minute time frame – and see what they create.
1. Divide students into groups.
2. Give each group:
- 20 popsicle sticks
- 20 marshmallows
- 1 yard of masking tape
- 1 sheet of black construction paper
3. The task of each group is to build a set for a play out of the materials.
4. The play must be something students have studied, seen, or been in.
5. The set must include one multi-story structure.
6. Remind students – the set has to fit the play. It can’t just be a couple of marshmallows for cubes. How will you create a visual, theatrical space for the piece?