Marshmallows and Buggys and Wild Ideas!


First week down and one of my goals for this year is to blog at least once a week, so here I go!

In physics, we did marshmallow towers and then Buggy Lab. I loved the way we did marshmallow towers this year because we did them twice. The first time was at the freshmen orientation, so it was a great activity to do with the new kiddos, meet a bunch of them and have some fun. Most towers failed.


Pixel face here looks like he’s enjoying it nonetheless.

But that’s the point. They try out these amazing tall designs and realize too late that they aren’t sturdy enough to hold a marshmallow. Last year, that was the end of it. We just discussed what I wanted them to take away from the activity. But this year, they got to experience the takeaway. The second time we did the challenge, students were armed with a few new tricks:

1.) they knew of at least 3 designs that wouldn’t work because they all took pictures of their first fails

2.) they knew that the secret was to place the marshmallow on top first and build up from there

Almost every group had a successful tower the second time around. What a powerful visual to promote a growth mindset! A bunch of failed towers one day, a bunch of awesome sturdy structures the next! BAM!

IMG_1212 IMG_1216

We also did our buggy lab this week and I think I’ve got the setup for this one down. But I’m never sure how much to feed the students about the structure. This year, I gave away a little more than usual. I told them to make sure to include a graph, equation, sentence, and motion map, and I helped them out with creating all of them as needed. Some might say “well, um, isn’t that your job?”. Yeah, but it still feels a little weird, like I’m robbing them of a good learning experience. But in the end I think I did the right thing here. My science dept’s big goal is improving scientific investigation skills. And one of the things I’ve been doing wrong is not providing enough scaffolding early on in the year. Here’s the handout we used:

And here’s a board ready to go into the discussion next class:


Ok, so that’s it for marshmallows and buggys, what about the Wild Ideas I promised?! Well, in my Intro to Engineering and Design class (awesome right?!), we did a challenge where they had to get a HotWheels car to travel between two tables on a fishing line. One of the materials they had to accomplish this task was a balloon. So one group had the idea to put their car inside the balloon and then blow it up and tape a paper clip to it to attach to the line. It totally worked! Sorry no pictures, but take my word for it, it was awesome!

And that’s one of our first lessons for the class. Don’t throw out any wild ideas, sometimes they’re the best ones. Also, sometimes they suck and the boring-est idea turns out to be the best. But the ability to tell the difference and pick the winner makes for a good engineer. I’ll take pictures next time. 🙂

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