Delicious Design

One of the most frequent questions I receive about STEAM Education is how do we teach the basics of design and engineering with no budget. When people see articles of 3d Printing in the classrooms, Benefits of STEAM Robotics and Solar Powered Painting Cars they immediately assume that the only way to teach is through expensive technology. Obviously, high-end technologies are incredibly cool and powerful, however, they do not serve as a total educational supplement. In fact, one of the first classes in design I utilize involves just two, readily found, components.

Small Marshmallows

Toothpicks

 

The reason I love this challenge is that it’s immediately clear to kids how it “works.” They grab a fistful of marshmallows, promptly eat 75% of them, and then start prodding them with the toothpicks. Now the magic happens.

Mise en Place

So in this workshop, I wanted the structures to go home with them, I hot glued a triangle to a square of foam core and watched some kids attach toothpicks.
Here’s the beauty of the situation:

  1. Triangles are more stable than squares and by starting with three marshmallows it suggests to build in that style.
  2. Kids are imaginative and defiant which leads to great learning opportunities, for both parties involved.

So as some people start building upward and not joining connections into “pyramid” shapes the structures would droop, sag and fall. This created great topics such as: How did it fall? and¬†How could we improve our design?

A somewhat droopy statue.

Then some children would take their fallen objects and further fall in love, making up storylines of building collapses or, my favorite, Post-Godzilla McDonalds.
However, sometimes kids start with a simple thought: (I’m gonna put toothpicks in this marshmallow) and end up creating a beautiful solution.

Supernova by unnamed 5 year old

The point, in my mind, is to always strive to create spaces that develop Creativity and Problem-Solving that, ideally, can relate to some sort of aspect of life; whether occupationally or simply questioning How It Works.