The Marshmallow Challenge

By Marilyn Parsons

Introduction: I am a faculty member in the School of Advancement teaching ESL for International and domestic students in a Foundations program.    

I used the Marshmallow Challenge as a Team Building exercise in the second week of virtual lessons to allow students to learn the value of group work and to build synergy among the students, even in a virtual environment. 

Marshmallow challenge group work activity  

A. Intro:

Explain what the Marshmallow challenge is and how it became popular all over the world as a team building activity, including Fortune 500 companies. Show the materials needed for the Marshmallow Challenge. 

Pre-watch Discussion: You are going to watch a video about how the Marshmallow Challenge was conducted among different groups, Business school students, CEOs of companies, Administrative Assistants and a Kindergarten class.  

Q1: Who do you think produced the best Marshmallow Towers? Why?  

B. Listening and Note Taking

Watch the video Build a Tower, Build a Team (video also viewable below). Take notes of the main points. You may preview the Group Work Questions before taking notes.  

Share your answers with the class and post one set of answers per group to the Discussion Board.   

  1. What is the purpose of the Marshmallow challenge? 
  2. Who did the best at the Marshmallow challenge? Why? 
  3. Who did the worst? Why?
  4. What are the benefits/challenges of group work?  

C. The Marshmallow Challenge 

Instruct students to bring the following materials in the next virtual class to make their own Team Marshmallow Tower: 

  • 20 pieces of spaghetti 
  • Scotch tape 
  • 1 piece of string 
  • 1 marshmallow (or a rolled up piece of paper)   

Breakout Group Activity: Your team will be responsible to try and build the tallest tower in 20 minutes. If some members of the group do not have materials, they can help instruct the team members in building the tower.  

Discuss the Group Reflection Questions and answer each question in one to two sentences. Show your tower to the class. Post your Tower Photo and Group Reflection Questions to the Discussion Board. 

Group Reflection Questions 

In your group discuss the following questions and post one set of answers (two sentences each) to the Discussion Board. 

  1. What was easy about the exercise? What was difficult?  
  2. Were there any problems in your group? How did you solve them?  
  3. Which of the other teams was most successful in your task? Why do you think they were successful?  
  4. What did you learn about working in a team?

Part B Video: Build a tower, build a team