Summer STEM Challenge: Marshmallow Engineering

By Megan Sheakoski

STEM
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Marshmallows and s’mores are synonymous with summer fun and parents can build on that excitement with this fun and simple STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project. Creating structures out of marshmallows develops kids’ engineering skills and enhances their critical thinking. It’s the perfect way for them to keep their EDGE this summer!

While creating marshmallow structures kids are working on the STEM concepts of design, building, shape, and structure in a fun and hands-on way. It’s an open-ended process that allows them to build and rebuild designs while problem solving and develops higher level critical thinking.

We took the STEM concepts being taught in the Sylvan Edge classes and used them to become marshmallow engineers. In the process, my kids got the chance to problem solve and experiment with building and design.

Supplies needed:

  • Marshmallows or mini-marshmallows (they hold better if they are a little bit stale)
  • Plastic drinking straws or toothpicks (if using mini-marshmallows)
  • Scissors

Start off the activity by asking the kids to make two-dimensional shapes with the supplies such as a square or a triangle. Then ask them to turn their 2-D shapes into 3-D ones by adding more sides. If they get stuck demonstrate how to turn a square into a cube.

Next ask them what other types of structures they can build. Let them cut the straws or even the marshmallows if necessary to create the design they desire. As they work encourage them to “try something different” to overcome any problems they encounter. This open-ended exploration is a great way to investigate STEM concepts.

Extend the learning:

Give them simple challenges to get them to think critically and to make the process more fun!

  • Build a two or three story structure
  • Create a marshmallow bridge
  • Build a structure using only one shape
  • Create a structure that can hold a piece of paper

Larger marshmallows can make it more challenging to build higher structures and mini-marshmallows limit the number of toothpicks that can be used in each one. Encourage kids to discover the limitations of the materials and add in more you may have around the house to achieve their goal. You’ll be surprised by just how creative they can be!

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