As educators we continually search for ideas to inspire our learners to engage in what we feel are purposeful learning experiences. It is within these learning experiences, students create new meaningful connections and evolve individual skills and practices.
This month, I was inspired to have my students try a task that my former principal and mentor had our staff complete. The task was to design and build (only using twenty spaghetti noodles, one meter of masking tape, and one meter of string) the tallest freestanding structure. Importantly, the structure had to be able to support a marshmallow at the very top. This challenge was to be completed in groups of 4-5 people and within a restricted 18-minute time period.
This challenge is known to many as: The Marshmallow Challenge.
In my classroom, after instructions and supplies were delivered, the groups of students feverishly began to either design and build, utilize the trial and error process, or debate what had to be done. Whatever particular strategy the students chose had to lead them to the final result: a structure designed and built by the group within 18 minutes that would be able to support a marshmallow on top.
Even though I have worked with this group of learners throughout the year, throughout this challenge, I was impressed and taken aback by how these individuals interacted and collaborated with one another. Yes, some students had difficulties, but they weren’t excluded from the group. Even the students who generally can’t be next to each other, found ways to connect and work together to experience success. Each group member was an important and vital part of the group’s whole. Students continued to experience and learn how to collaborate in unusual circumstances, think outside the box, demonstrate sportsmanship and work as a team. These are skills that are learned over time, and will evolve and be honed with each new learning experience.
The following are comments from the students during a digital-debrief:
“I thought that it was fun and challenging. I honestly thought it would be easier than it was. I feel that it challenges you to collaborate with random people you may not like.”
“It was fun because we worked as a team and we didn’t care about winning we just wanted to make a strong structure.”
“I thought that the activity was fun and helped us collaborate with different types of people and minds.”
“it thought it was fun we where learning how to communicate in different ways and how to communicate in a lot of ways.”
Check out the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information.
Take a look at what others have been saying about learning: http://cbe182.weebly.com/