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Teaching CCS Students Architecture With Marshmallows and Toothpicks

Hamilton STEM Marshmallow Project

June 24, 2021 -- At Hamilton STEM, elementary school students are learning about the art and science of architecture using a bag of mini marshmallows and 100 toothpicks. In groups of three, students work together to build a structure, usually a triangle or rectangle. Students are then asked to identify which shape is stronger by placing a book or some other object on their structure. 

“This exercise teaches students different levels of stability and how it’s important for engineers and architects to use shapes that will be stable in the structures they build,” said Mary J. Pettigrew, Hamilton STEM Elementary School Assistant Principal. 

Triangles are strong, for example, because the shape distributes the weight evenly where squares and rectangles can be more flimsy especially with a slight redistribution of weight that could cause the square to collapse. 

“This Summer Learning Experience exercise teaches students that architecture is both art and a science,” said Pettigrew. “Artistic and creative in design but engineered using math and science so the structure is strong and stable.” 

Next up for these elementary school students, the catapult challenge. Using an elastic rubber band, students will design and create a catapult that will launch a mini-marshmallow or Cheerio into a cup.