STEM Marshmallow Challenge

BY AMANDA MOSES

Gardening is more than just planting; it’s a life science that involves the creation of a sustainable environment with continuous observation, measurements, and other scientific tools. Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman, utilizes various methods to help create optimal living conditions for the vegetation growing at the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC). She seasonally amends the soil and applies compost to ensure that it has plenty of water and nutrients. Roytman also uses structures to trellis plants for vertical gardening, which is particularly good for Snow peas, Malabar spinach, Nasturtium, roses, cucumbers, pole beans, and tomatoes.

Since it’s still too cold to visit the UGC, Roytman has been instructing the Spring Creek After School Program on the science involved in gardening. Last month, the first graders participated in a popular STEM activity, the Marshmallow Challenge. Roytman explained to the class that the same concept behind making a marshmallow tower with tooth picks is applied when creating trellises for plants. The basic engineering design process to ask, imagine, plan and create is also used when creating a balanced trellis for vine plants.

“Before you build your towers, remember that the strongest shape is a triangle,” Roytman said. An example of a similar structure is a tomato plant trellis, which gardeners use to support the sprawling vines and heavy fruit as it grows. The tomato trellis is an inverted pyramid using circular sections to help balance the plant.

The students collaborated with their classmates to create the strongest and tallest towers. Once they finished their project the children snacked on marshmallows and discussed practicing this pro-ject in the spring with tomato trellises in the UGC.

Photos by Amanda Moses