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 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.
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.
“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.”
Jon Patry (@jtpatry) is a Learning Leader & grade 6 teacher at Ted Harrison Middle School. Jon is also an Apple Distinguished Educator (Class of 2013) and blogger (sporadically this year) at www.eduboot.com.