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Marshmallow Challenge

Updated: Oct 19, 2019

Leadership development, project management and team building all in one activity?! Sign. Me. Up!

I came across this TED Talk which describes how 20 pieces of spaghetti, a piece of tape & string and one marshmallow can teach students about protyping while giving them a fun experience in getting to know each other. Students build the tallest towers they can with their materials, and as a final step, place their marshmallow on the top of their tower. Spoiler alert...many teams place the marshmallow on their tower only at the end where the weight causes the tower to topple. Successful towers are built by placing the marshmallow on the tower at each stage of height in order to test the support. The TED Talk narrator likens this to challenges and problems teams may face as they strive for a goal. The idea behind this lesson is to model for students that there will be challenges in the projects and events they put together in Service Learning, but if they take initiative to think through solutions along the way, their outcomes will be more successful.

To execute this activity, I gave my students time to build the towers, watched the TED Talk with them, facilitate a full class discussion and then asked them to individually reflect on what they think our marshmallows will be this year. I also asked them to articulate how they think we can proactively make sure we support our goals throughout our process and not just come the day of an event. Kids had great ideas about checks and balances in event planning and responded positively to this activity! Let me know if you try it!

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