Marble Run With an Inclined Plane
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. This activity is easy to set up, and provides hands-on STEAM fun for early learners.
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Projects like this inclined plane activity are not only fun, they promote hands-on scientific exploration in simple ways.
STEAM = Science + Technology + Engineering + Art + Math
Hands-on STEAM activities provide amazing learning opportunities for kids: 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).
For this inclined plane activity, you will need:
- large pieces of cardboard
- plastic cups
Instructions for marble run
1.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).
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 as you engage in the activity.
2. Bend the side edges of the cardboard up 2 - 3 inches (5 - 8 cm) to keep the marbles from rolling off the sides.
3. If you are using two pieces of cardboard, set one piece on a slant inside the other as shown in the diagram.
4. A long strip of tape will secure the upper slanted piece to the base, hold the cups in place at the end of the run, and decorate the board all at the same time.
5. To create an incline, rest the top of the slanted cardboard on a chair or low table. 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 seemed better as it reduced the speed of the marbles, allowing them to settle into the cups without popping back out.
6. 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.
The process of trial and error is part of the learning through play!
Learning through play
- Add numbers or letters to the tops of the cups or to the tape at the front of the cups. Kids call out the numbers as their marbles roll into the cups.
- Kids can "aim" for a certain number and add their scores.
- Experiment with different sizes of marbles.
- Experiment with 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.
Visit our STEM board on Pinterest for more fun science activities for kids.