Our latest STEM activity for kids is all about physics! You’ll be creating a homemade marble run and exploring what happens to the marble as you make changes to the track. (It’s similar to how a roller coaster works!)
This activity correlates with Next Generation Science Standards Kindergarten: NGSS K-PS2-2)
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Whenever I present my kids with science experiments, my main goal is to inspire them to make predictions and critically think about the world around them. Both my 2 year old and 5 year old had a blast exploring this marble run! Lucy continuously came up with new ideas to try. (This post contains affiliate links.)
Science for Kids: Create a Homemade Marble Run
Materials for the Marble Run
- Foam pipe insulation– 6 feet (We bought ours from the local hardware store. The width of the insulation was 1 1/4 inches, and the thickness of the wall was 3/8 inch. There’s a variety of sizes that will work.)
- Marbles (Our marbles were similar to these marbles and bought at a local store.)
Procedure for Homemade Marble Run
1. Cut the foam tubes in half.
2. Tape the two halves together so you have a 12 foot long piece of tubing.
3. Now the fun part~ experiment with the track!
- Start by finding an area in your house or outside where you have quite a bit of room to stretch the tube out.
- Tape one side of the tube onto something somewhat high like a table.
- I let the kids roll the marble down the marble run just like that, with no hills, to see what would happen.
- Find something to place under the tubing (pillow, shoebox, books etc.) to make a hill. (The kids used our felt Christmas trees!) Roll the marble down the track and see what happens. What happens when you move the hill or make it taller?
- After experimenting with one hill, add a second hill and explore.
4. Allow time to explore the marble run with two hills. It was fun watching the kids try to figure out places the hills could be along the marble run that would work and wouldn’t work!
After exploring the hills, the kids found a long cardboard tube from an old roll of wrapping paper. They used it to make a tunnel by placing the track inside the tubing.
The experimented with the tunnel in different places along the track. Their favorite setup was to place it at the end of the track!
What’s Going On?
You are exploring physics! Gravity pulls the marble down the first hill. At the top of the hill, the marble has potential energy (energy that’s stored up and ready to be released). As the marble rolls down the hills the potential energy turns into kinetic energy (energy of motion).
- In order for the marble run to work, the initial hill has to be the tallest hill.
- This science exploration is fun for a variety of ages. Even my 2 year old was completely enamored with the marble run. He played with it for days! (Of course if your child is under 3 years of age, please remember marbles are choking hazards. Alway supervise closely and never leave your child unattended.)
Want to Go Even Further?
Related activities to extend the learning for various ages.
- Print out this comparison chart to record your observations of how hill height affect the marble rolling.
- Add more than two hills or curves to your track and observe how it affects the rolling marble.
- Time how long it takes your marble to complete the track. Brainstorm ways your marble could complete the track in less time and try out your ideas.
- Related article: How Roller Coasters Work
Love awesome, hands-on STEM activities? Check out our newest book, STEAM Kids with over 50 science, technology, engineering, art, and math activities to instill a love of learning and creativity in your child or students!