Marble Run With an Inclined Plane
A marble run is fun to make for kids to explore an inclined plane. This activity is easy to set up with recycled cardboard, and provides hands-on STEAM learning for kids from toddler to kindergarten.
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Projects like this inclined plane activity are not only fun, they promote scientific exploration in exciting ways.
Educators often provide STEAM activities that overlap, or integrate, in simple hands-on projects.
STEAM = Science + Technology + Engineering + Art + Math
Here's how these elements are realized in this marble run activity:
- designing and setting up the project (engineering)
- choosing colors of tape and cups (art)
- using different sizes of marbles (math)
- observing the results of marbles rolling down an inclined plane (science).
Inclined plane activity with marbles
My first activity with an inclined plane was so much fun, I decided to create a second one. This time we used marbles instead of cars to experiment with the slope of an inclined plane.
For this inclined plane activity, you will need:
- large pieces of cardboard
- plastic cups
Instructions for marble run
The dimensions of the marble run will be determined by the size of the cardboard you use.
We used two pieces measuring 18 in. wide x 30 in. long (46 cm x 76 cm).
1. Bend the side edges of the cardboard up 2 - 3 inches (5 - 8 cm). This will help prevent the marbles from rolling off the sides.
2. Set one piece of cardboard on a slant inside the other piece of cardboard as shown in the diagram. Rest the top of the slanted cardboard on a chair or low table while you complete the project.
- One long piece of cardboard that can be bent in the middle would probably work just as well. A bend in the middle of the run helps reduce the speed of the marble. If it rolls too quickly it is more likely to flip over the side of the track or pop out of the cup.
You can observe the speed of the marbles and make alterations in the degree of slant as you engage in the activity.
3. Place small disposable cups at the bottom of the structure.
4. Tape the two pieces of cardboard together with masking tape. Run long strips of tape from top to bottom, extending into the small disposable cups to hold them in place.
5. Create an incline. We tried a small deacon's bench which is 15.5 inches (40 cm) high. We also tried a low stool which is 11 inches (28 cm) high. The lower height reduced the speed of the marbles, allowing them to settle into the cups without popping back out.
Learning through play
Drop a marble or other small ball at the top of the inclined plane and watch it roll down to land in one of the cups.
- Add numbers or letters to the tops of the cups or to the tape at the front of the cups; call out the numbers as marbles roll into the cups.
- Aim for a certain number; add scores.
- Experiment with different sizes of marbles.
- Increase or decrease the slope of the plane.
- Race two or more marbles at a time.
With a few household materials, you can create an inclined plane that allows kids to discover and learn through play.
Simple activities like this engage kids in hands-on experimentation and observation. Provide kid-led activities to support imagination and creativity in early learners.
STEM board on Pinterest
for more fun science activities for kids.
Find this activity on:
- Best of Kid Bloggers Posts for 2015 Pinterest board.