The Science of Marshmallows

The Science of Marshmallows

Short description
Full description
Short description

The Science of Marshmallows

Type of resource: Websites

Web address

Language: English


Investigating the effect of heat on a marshmallow - in particular on the sugar and air inside

Scientific concept introduced

Materials and change: exploring the effects of heating

Creative and critical thinking

Critical Thinking:


2. Prediction

Creative Thinking:

1. Designing

2. Curiosity

Mathematical reasoning


Scientific thinking

1. Observing
2. Explaining
3. Predicting
4. Comparing
5. Planning
6. Drawing conclusions

Learning how to learn

1. Following guidelines
2. Active listening
3. Self-efficacy in learning
4. Fun in learning
5. Engagement in learning


1. Collaborative skills such as sharing and turn-taking
2. Oral language development
3. Artistic skills
4. Following rules of safety

Full description

The Science of Marshmallows

Overall aims

• to enable pupils to investigate changes in a marshmallow when heated
• to develop pupils’ skills in listening and following guidelines
• to develop pupils’ skills in measuring
• to develop pupils’ skills in designing
• to develop pupils’ skills in sharing and turn-taking
• to develop pupils’ skills in observing and predicting
• to develop pupils’ expressive language skills
• to develop pupils’ artistic skills

Vocabulary - keywords should be understood

Marshmallow, sugar, water, air, food colouring, fluffy, soft, bubbles, sweet, heat, cool,
stretch, measure, width, height.

Expected learning outcomes (operational aims)

The child will be enabled to:
• follow instructions for the experiment
• identify properties and characteristics of marshmallows in a normal state and when heated
• make observations and predictions during the experiment
• take turns using food colouring
• design a marshmallow using food colouring
• identify and compare colours

STEM skills - to which the learning unit is related to


• Observing
• Explaining
• Predicting
• Curiosity
• Drawing conclusions
• Planning
• Comparing
• Designing
• Measuring


• Active listening
• Following guidelines

• Self-efficacy in learning
• Engagement in learning
• Following rules of safety
• Oral language
• Creativity
• Fun in learning
• Artistic skills
• Collaborative skills such as sharing and turn-taking

Teaching methodologies/activity outline

Teacher Note: This experiment requires close adult supervision and support as the marshmallow becomes very hot once heated in the microwave as the sugar begins to carmelise. Also, ensure pupils stand clear of the microwave and when taking the marshmallow out of the microwave be careful as it can be very hot.

1. Elicit pupils’ prior knowledge of the properties and characteristics of a marshmallow.
Sample Questions: Describe what a marshmallow looks like- what colour is it? (Pink or white) What does it taste like? (Sweet) Why do you think it tastes sweet? (It has sugar in it.) What do you do with marshmallows? (You eat them/You can put them in hot chocolate).
2. Inform pupils that marshmallows are made with sugar. The sugar is whipped until it gets fluffy and filled with air.
3. Explain to pupils that they will be doing an experiment to investigate what happens when a marshmallow is heated.

(Divide the class into groups of 4 or 5, reminding them to take turns)


Materials: (per group)
• 1 marshmallow per pupil
• A range of food colouring tubes
• 1 paper plate per pupil
• 1 microwave safe plate per group
• 2 strips of paper and a crayon per pupil (for measuring)
• A Microwave (for the class)


1. Give each pupil a marshmallow and a paper plate to hold it.
2. Ask pupils to take turns feeling their marshmallow.

Sample question: How does it feel? (Squishy. soft)
3. Then show pupils how to measure the width of their marshmallow by marking one of the strips of paper with the crayon; and then to measure the height of their marshmallow marking the other strip of paper.
4. Ask pupils to look at the food colouring and discuss the various colours.
Sample question: What colours do you see? Which colour is darkest? Which colours are lighter?
5. Demonstrate how to squeeze the food colouring onto the marshmallow to create a design. Wavy lines and dots work well.
6. Ask pupils to plan and then design their own marshmallow.
7. Take turns bringing each group to the top of the class to show their marshmallows. Place their marshmallows on the microwave safe plate and pop it into the microwave for about 50-60 seconds.
Sample questions: What do you think will happen to the marshmallow? Do you think it will change? Will it get bigger or smaller?
Ask pupils to stand clear of the microwave and when taking the marshmallow out of the microwave be careful as it can be very hot. Make sure to use oven gloves.
8. Ask pupils to describe how their marshmallow looks now. Then once the marshmallow has cooled sufficiently ask them to measure the marshmallow again.
Sample questions: Is it the same width/height? Did the marshmallow grow? How much did it grow? Why do you think it grew?

The Science behind the expanding marshmallow:
Marshmallows are made of sugar, water and air. When the marshmallow is heated up it heats up the ingredients and causes bubbles inside to heat up, trapping warm air inside them. This makes the marshmallows expand and puff out. This is why the marshmallow grows and you can see the design markings stretch. If it heats up too much it can burst, like a balloon. Inside the marshmallow, the sugar begins to caramelise and turn brown, the longer it is heated. When the marshmallow is removed from the heat and begins to cool down, it starts to shrink and grow smaller again.

1. Ask pupils to draw a picture of their marshmallow before it was heated and after it was heated, showing the changes.

Assessment of learning

Pupil observation sheet

Equipment and materials to be used in learning unit (tools, ingredients etc)

For the teacher:
• A marshmallow
• Microwave
• Food colouring tubes
• Oven gloves

For pupils: (per group)
• 1 marshmallow per pupil
• A range of food colouring tubes
• 1 paper plate per pupil
• 1 microwave safe plate per group
• 2 strips of paper and a crayon per pupil (for measuring)
• A Microwave (for the class)

Kind of setting


References - source


The Science of Marshmallows

1. Usefulness for STEM education - integrating content of different disciplines

Cross-curricular character of the resource 


The range of S-T-E-M subjects included 


The presentation of possibilities of including artistic activities (STEAM approach)


2. Expected learning outcomes

Consistency (links) with preschool core curriculum


Communicativeness of description


3. Methodology of teaching

Clarity, communicativeness of instructions for teachers


Meaningful learning - using practical life problems


Original idea 


The level of ease in implementing the methodology to preschool age children


The level of ease in preparing necessary ingredients, materials and equipment needed


4. Sustainability

Ecological characteristics of materials/ results


Supporting healthy eating habits 


Low ecological footprint


Possibilities of inclusion (respecting cultural diversity and food intolerances)


5. Class management

Using differentiated forms of work - individual, team work etc.


Individual work





Team work





Whole group




6. Time management


Short activity (10-15 minutes)




Medium activity (20-30 minutes)




Long activity (1 hour or more)




Very long activity (1 day or more)

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