Sunday, August 15, 2010

Middle School Marshmallow Challenge

Over the summer, I watched Tom Wujek's Ted talk called, "Build a Tower, Build a Team" and I immediately knew that this was a challenge that I wanted to present to the middle school faculty at ACS.  We have worked very hard over the past few years to build a collaborative culture and I knew that this challenge would lead to a great discussion about the power of teaming.

At the end of the day, I was not disappointed.  The marshmallow challenge was a great way to reunite with colleagues after the summer break and the activity generated some great discussions about learning in our school.  Here are some of the main points that faculty members brought up during our discussion following the activity.

  • Manage your time - time is always a limiting factor and it is important that you are aware of the time that you have available to you and plan accordingly
  • Team building - working with a team can be very complex but this challenge allowed for everyone to have their voices heard and play a role in a collaborative process
  • It's okay to take risks - this challenge reinforced that it is okay to think outside of the box when trying to accomplish something.  The simple fact that no one had ever attempted anything like this previously meant that we were all immediately outside our comfort zones
  • Learn from our mistakes - it is important to use prototypes when following a creative process.  As teachers, this can be in the form of formative assessment.  We constantly need to be monitoring our students learning and using that information to make our instructional decisions
  • Set reachable goals - it is important to set goals that are attainable and measurable.  
  • Group size matters - although the activity calls for groups of 4, we completed the challenge in our departments which meant that our group size varied.  It was discovered that the smaller groups seemed to be more successful with their towers than our larger groups.
  • High stakes can lead to decreased performance on creative tasks - Tom Wujek outlines how the performance of groups in this challenge decreased when he introduced significant rewards.  As our faculty continues to introduce more creative tasks in our classes, we need to ensure that we are setting our students up for success in their learning 
  • Fun - this was a fun, exciting activity and was a great way to kick off a new school year!

Tom Wujek's website "The Marshmallow Challenge" can be found here.   This site will give you all of the materials that you will need to conduct the challenge at your school.
Feel free to let me know how it goes.

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