Marshmallow Challenge Activity

This isn’t your ordinary marshmallow challenge! This activity takes an in-depth entrepreneurial look at the design process and inspires reflection on each stage.

Youth will work in teams to complete a challenge to build the tallest free-standing structure out of dry spaghetti noodles that also supports the weight of a regular-sized marshmallow.

Along the way, teams will be asked to reflect on what they’ve been doing and how they’re feeling as they experience what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset. It will also help students start building some key entrepreneurial skills including creativity, teamwork, and prototyping.

Materials

  • • Pens/pencils
  • • Measuring tape/stick
  • • Timer
  • Marshmallow Challenge Materials (1 set per group):
    • • 20 uncooked spaghetti noodles
    • • 1 yard of masking tape
    • • 1 yard of string
    • • 1 regular sized marshmallow (not mini)
    • • 1 Marshmallow Challenge Team Observations Handout

Instructions

Getting Ready (10 minutes)

1. Have students get into groups of 3-5. Consider using a method from Group Up!

2. Briefly explain to students that they are going to do an entrepreneurial challenge—ask students if they have heard the word “entrepreneur” before and take a few answers/ ideas. (Keep this brief, as the idea is they have the experience of the activity to help them more fully understand entrepreneurship).

3. Explain that in today’s lesson they will experience what it is like to be an entrepreneur and they will learn more about how people who are entrepreneurial think and behave. Emphasize that being entrepreneurial isn’t just about setting up and running a business; whatever they choose to do in the future, they will benefit from these skills and ways of thinking (mindsets)!

4. Explain the Marshmallow Challenge: Tell students that they will work in teams to build the tallest tower possible that can hold a marshmallow on the top. They will only be able to construct the towers with the materials provided.

5. Let students ask questions as needed. Make sure that they understand that:

• Towers must be free standing – they cannot be stuck down/taped down or suspended.

• Teams can only use the materials they have been given (20 spaghetti noodles, masking tape, string, and one marshmallow) but they do not have to use all the materials.

They can use the materials in anyway they’d like (except for anchoring or suspending the tower) – for example, they can break the spaghetti into smaller pieces.

• The tower must hold the marshmallow on top and still stay standing. The marshmallow has to stay in one piece.

• The winning team is the one with the tallest tower that holds the marshmallow on top.

• Let students know they will have a total of 18 minutes for the challenge–including both planning and building the tower.

6. Hand out the Marshmallow Challenge Team Observations Handout. Let students know that at two points during the activity, and then at the end, you will ask them to reflect on their progress and thinking.

Each time you ask students to record, a different team member should be the recorder. Have the group take a minute before the activity starts to assign when each person will be the recorder and have them write the names down next to the “Recorder” notes in each time box.

7. Explain that you will tell the recorders when to ask the group the questions on the Team Observations Handout, they will ask the questions and note down answers while the rest of the group continues building the tower.

Start the Timer and Marshmallow Challenge (18 minutes)

8. Give out the sets of materials to each group, make sure everyone is ready, and start the timer!

TIP: the recorder should write key points on the card while everyone continues building and the timer is going.

9. At 6 minutes ask the recorders to ask their teammates questions using the Team Observations Card.

10. Repeat the above step at 12 minutes

11. At 17 minutes, let groups know they have 1 minute remaining.

12. At 18 minutes, tell all groups to stop what they are doing and stand back from the towers.

13. Ask the final recorder to complete the last section in the Marshmallow Challenge Team Observations Handout.

Measuring the Towers (5 minutes)

14. Go to each tower and determine whether it is free standing and if it is holding the marshmallow. If it is, measure the tower’s height. 

15. Record the results somewhere for the whole group of students to see and announce the winner!

16. Ask students to review the notes on the Team Observation Cards before the debrief. This will help students settle down after the final countdown excitement and give them a chance to think about the activity.

Post-discussion, extension, and more

Enhance this activity with detailed post activity discussion on planning, prototyping, teamwork, learning from failure, and more. This full activity (and more!) are available in Topics in Entrepreneurship: Intro to Entrepreneurship for grades 6-12.

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