The Marshmallow Challenge

Have you heard of the Marshmallow Challenge?  In this activity, teams must build the tallest possible free-standing structure out of spaghetti sticks and string–a structure that can support a marshmallow at the top.

This was our second team activity after the Egg Drop, and girls set to work with enthusiasm.  They were divided into groups of four, and given twenty minutes to complete their structure.  Some teams were argumentative, others were focused on consensus.  Some got stuck into construction straight away, whilst other teams spent a long time deliberating… in some cases, too long!

Nadiya, Safah and Ankita work on their structure
Nadiya, Safah and Ankita work on their structure
Wajiha, Saima and Madiha think about how to proceed with their project...
Wajiha, Saima and Madiha think about how to proceed with their project…
Monica, Varsha, Priya, Mitali and Aishwarya compare the heights of two completed structures
Monica, Varsha, Priya, Mitali and Aishwarya compare the heights of two completed structures

Spaghetti sticks, marshmallows and red wool don’t sound like the stuff from which great leaders are born, however, this is much more than a “fun activity”.

In activities like this, team dynamics cause interesting situations to emerge, with lots of opportunity for reflection and learning.

  • Some of the groups couldn’t build anything because no one was decisive enough to choose a strategy… at what point do we move away from consensus-building and start work?
  • Other groups were very decisive, and strategic, but couldn’t produce a free-standing structure–why not?
  • Some were surprised by the unexpected success from a team of quiet, patient girls who just got to work without fanfare… what special qualities or skills did these group members have that allowed them to succeed?

With the time and space to reflect on such questions at ALF, girls can take steps towards becoming leaders in various aspects of their lives.

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