Investigating Motion: Paths of a marble

Trudy Gunderson
Pearson Elementary School
Shakopee, MN
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In this activity, children will investigate the paths that marbles take once set into motion and then how to change those paths, noting if and how they change.

Learning Goals

Students will have an opportunity to see various paths a marble will take as it moves. They will also discover how it moves when there is a change in a variable. Students will make predictions, record observations and share findings with the class.
Vocabulary: motion, direction, curve, straight line, circle

Context for Use

This 45 minute inquiry based lesson can be done in a classroom setting.
Materials needed are: marbles, embroidery hoops and Hot Wheels tracks (or other items that allow a marble to follow a curve) for each pair of students, science journals, and pencil for each student

Description and Teaching Materials

"Today we are going to investigate the paths a moving marble will take and if we can change the path after the marble has started moving." Invite children to find out how many different types of paths a marble will take as it moves by investigating with a partner (straight line, curve, circle) . Explain that the marbles, hoops and tracks are available to partner groups. "These things may help you discover a variety of paths a marble could take." Allow approximately 15 minutes for partners to investigate and record their findings into science journals. Call all students back to share their findings about the paths a moving marble takes. Then invite students to investigate ways to change the path of the moving marble (i.e. from a straight line to a curve or from a circle to a straight line). This might include lifting the embroidery hoop, changing the shape of the track or letting the marble hit a wall. Students will have an additional 15 minutes to investigate and record their findings. Call all students back for discussion and to share their results. Ask students to summarize what they learned about paths a moving object takes and how those paths can be changed.

Extension: Use other moving objects, like Hot Wheels cars or balls of various sizes. Do the objects move in similar ways to our classroom activity? Will the object change it's path when a variable is changed?

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students may need guidance to get materials set up, like how to hold the curved track piece as a marble is released or that the marble path will change from a straight line going in one direction to a different straight line direction if the moving marble hits a wall. Students may also not make the connection that when the hoop contains the moving marble, the marble travels in a circle, but once the hoop is removed, the marble travels in a straight line.
I have not had my students investigate the paths a moving object will make, except with the use of tops. I believe this will better fit the standards for second grade and give my students a clear understanding that an object's path can change.


Students will demonstrate their understanding of the concepts in their journals and during the class discussion time.


2.II.D.1 Objects move in a variety of ways

References and Resources