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in 40 to 60 minutes

This is the marshmallow challenge. It can be a little messy, and is fun, energising and very effective.

Without telling them what this is about, break the students into groups of 3 – 5. Each group needs a table, 20 strands of raw spaghetti (regular kind), a metre of masking tape and a marshmallow. They need to avoid eating the marshmallow, but that’s not the challenge.

Put on some perky music and give them ten minutes to work in their teams to build the tallest structure possible, using only the materials given. The marshmallow has to be on the top. Measure each tower and give a prize to the winning team.

Do an experiential review and then show them the first 3 minutes and 20 secs of this video.

Ask them what they’ve learnt. Steer them towards the conclusion that the most successful teams didn’t waste time planning and working out what the right answer is. They just try something out and then iterate. The message is “succeed by getting stuck in”, doing it, and then improving on it.

With marshmallow/spaghetti towers and many other endeavours, proto-typing is the way forward.

Then ask – how can we apply this to current challenges? When personal statements comes up, ask them what they’d like to do and go with that knew understanding. Or guide them to unblock the stuck nonsense.


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