Students of all ages love to ride rides. In this science activity, kindergarteners get to explore hands-on design as they build roller coasters for marbles. They’ll quickly become engrossed in trying to make loops and hills in their mini roller coasters. Through trial and error, they’ll learn different ways to set up the marble roller coaster stem project. They’ll have so much fun that they won’t realize that their learning about force and motion and engineering at the same time.
This activity draws kids in but uses simple materials that are easy to find at your local hardware store. I love science investigations that don’t require lots of specialized equipment. Almost all of the materials are reusable too, so you won’t have to restock each year for this experiment.
Foam Pipe Insulation cut in half lengthwise
1 Marble per student or group
1 Roll of Masking Tape per student or group
1 Plastic Cup per student or group
1 Marble Roller Coaster Free Printable per student
Introducing the STEM Activity
The students can work alone or in groups of 2 or 3 to build their marble roller coaster. Start by explaining that they will be creating a marble roller coaster and that they want their marble to make it to the end of the track and end up in the cup. They can add loops or hills to it. I showed the kiddos how to twist the foam track into a loop so that they understood how it could loop around. Let their imaginations take over as the students sketch a design of their roller coaster on the Marble Roller Coaster Free Printable.
Students will need about 4 feet by 8 feet spaces to build their tracks. We used the gym so that they would have plenty of room to spread out. Groups could create one at a time if there isn’t enough room in the classroom. Make sure there is a wall they can safely tape to as a starting point for their track. You could also give them chairs or other objects to build the track over and around.
To keep the marbles under control, I had the students build their initial model first then get a marble to test it. After they checked it, they could see where something needed fixed or adjusted. Some groups needed a little guidance as to why their marble couldn’t make it up a hill or continued to fall off the track. Others caught their misstep right away and changed the design.
This activity addresses the following Next Generation Science Standards for Kindergarten.
Forces and Interactions Standards
K-PS2-2. Analyze data to determine if a design solution works as intended to change the speed or direction of an object with a push or a pull.*
Engineering and Design Standards
K-2-ETS1-2. Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
When they are finished building the marble roller coaster, have them draw the final design in the last box of the Marble Roller Coaster Free Printable. They can review all of the changes they needed to make from their first idea through their finished product.