Marble Run

Our engineering course is now on repeat. This is due to bad planning on my part. I didn’t realize our physics book had an entire unit on simple machines until about half way through the first “semester.” So we’ve gone through our Engino Simple Machines kits and learned some basic functions and physics related to those (here, here, here, and others)… and now we are visiting the simple machines all over again. The marble run is supposed to illustrate an inclined plane. The major difference this time though, besides the fact that we are using a physics book and worksheets/labs (when interesting), is that I am ditching the models and trying to incorporate real life, hands on simple machines and experiences.

Because who says a marble run isn’t real life! It’s totally relevant to our every day lives.


Anyway, we petitioned our friends and neighbors all December long for wrapping paper, paper towel, and toilet paper rolls in preparation and anticipation of THIS beauty.

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My new favorite pastime is finding marbles all around the house before the toddler does and sticks them in his mouth!

I also tried to quiz the kids on various physics and engineering terms and how they applied to our marble run, like “work,” “gravity,” “friction,” “forces,” “drag,” “momentum,” “Newton’s laws,” etc.

The project was actually really difficult to construct. There was a lot of problem solving that went into that thing – most of which involved lots and lots of tape (3 different kinds of tape, even). Often marbles would get stuck and we would have to figure out where and why and try again.

I’m not sure we learned a ton, but there is something really funny about the look on people’s faces when they walk into your house and notice a huge tape and toilet paper roll contraption threatening to come down on their heads at any minute.

I’m kind of tempted to make another… except I’m pretty sure we are out of tape…. all three kinds.

Here are the marbles in action. I apologize in advance if this makes you dizzy. You can thank my fourth grader for that. I’m the designated Marble Putter Inner and had no part in the actual filming of this clip… except to call cut at the end.