Building Communities: The Marshmallow Challenge!

Objective: Build trust and team (while understanding motivations), getting what you need from the community and learning how to communicate; work within resource constraints to creatively and hands-on engineer a functional structure together.

Time: 5 minute introduction / 18 minute challenge / 20-30 minute discussion

Materials Required:

  • Groups of 4-8 people
  • Notecards to hand out "roles" of Builder or Obstructionist
  • Measuring tape
  • Per Group
    • Masking Tape (1 yard)
    • 20 strands of uncooked spaghetti
    • Tape / String (1 yard)
    • 1 Large marshmallows

LINK: Slides for presentation to facilitate Marshmallow Challenge (discussion questions included!)

LINK: YouTube Video for TED Talk "Build a Tower, Build a Team"

Systems to Help and Hinder Innovation: Word Play!

Objective: How schools/districts hinder innovation? Understand bureaucracy and deal making in action, and then discuss how structures or systems (rules of the game) prevent or incentivize “deal-making”

Activity: Run two simulations comparing incentives and outcomes learned in each. Winning looks different in each simulation, but is not explicitly discussed in the rules...

  • FIRST SIMULATION in BUREAUCRACY: form as many words with your existing resources (the value: $5 for every word you form), and if you want to borrow letters from others -- it’ll cost you $1 for the exchange facilitated through the central letter agency)

  • SECOND SIMULATION in RAPID DEAL MAKING: form as many words with your existing resources (the value: the addition of all the letters used). And if you want to borrow letters from others, you can do 1:1 trade swaps directly with other teams at no cost

Time: 5 minute introduction / 12 minute challenge for Part 1 / 12 minute challenge for Part 2 / 20-30 minute discussion

Materials Required:

  • Groups of 4-8 people
  • Scrabble Pieces (about 8-12 pieces per group
  • Monopoly money (heavy on the $1s and $5s)
  • Score cards for each table

LINK: Presentation from Elena Sanina and Stacey Wang

LINK: Slides for presentation to facilitate Word Play Challenge 

Laying Foundations for Young Adult Success: Role Play with Rapid Problem-Solving

Objective: How do you put into practice the key concept: student-centered routines for young adult success. Anthropologically, we mush understand who a student is, where they come from, and how they learn. How do key moments in education translate to systems-level problems and solutions and what can we learn from role-playing those moments into understanding implications of our decisions and policies as leaders?

Activity: Each table gets a group of student personas (Successful Susan, Average Alex, Poor Choice Patty, Confused Charlie) to role play by rotating with their team. Each participate should role-play as a student and as a teacher. Considering the Framework for Young Adult Success After each role play, review:

  • What opportunities for improving the system to support young adult success did the role play help you see?
  • What challenges do you see in making such improvements?

After the role play, select ONE persona and spend the next 45 minute developing a potential solution to the challenges in the system that they are facing, then re-engage in the role-play to see how your solution plays out and holds up against "realities"

Time: 4 x 90 second role plays with 5 minute reflections after role plays / 45 minutes for rapid prototyping and role play

HANDOUT LINK: Role Play Personas and Protocol

LINK: Presentation from Jenny Nagaoka from University of Chicago's Consortium on School Research on A Framework for  Young Adult Success

Reflection: Like/Want/Wish/Will


  • “I like…” (something you liked about the day)
  • “I wish…” (something you wish you could’ve done / seen / had during the day)
  • “I wonder…” (something you wonder was possible)
  • “I will….” (your commitment to action beyond the day)