Shaking marshmallow and toothpick structures strengthens learning
Posted on 12/13/2019
surrounded by watching students, a teacher is shaking a table on which is placed a structure made of marshmallows and toothpicks

With the aid of marshmallows and toothpicks, students in Fifth-Grade Teacher Susan Johannes’ class at Marumsco Hills Elementary School recently learned about earthquakes. Johannes challenged the students with a fun hands-on activity to think critically about designing a structure to withstand an earthquake.

Using math, students determined that the greater the area, or base of a polygon, the more likely it was able to withstand an earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale. One student decided to try a pyramid and determined that where the vertex on top was, it was more stable than a cube or rectangular structure, so it was able to withstand more than a 5.0 magnitude. The students used marshmallows and toothpicks to build their structures, then placed them on a board that Johannes then shook to simulate an earthquake to test their theories and buildings.

Many students discovered that a larger base and shorter structure made it less likely to collapse during an earthquake. The pyramid design proved to have great results, and its stability was thought to have resulted from the way the three points came together.

One student associated the height of the building to a snowman, and said that “the higher the snowman gets, the more it tends to lean, making it more likely to fall over.”

“As a facilitator, I truly enjoyed listening to the students discuss strategies and reasons for their decisions,” said Johannes

Creating fun and interactive learning activities for students is Positively PWCS!

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