Marble run challenge | BCHydro Power Smart for Schools

Marble run challenge

Let the good times roll! Creativity, teamwork, and competition teach us all about energy transformations.

Activity Image
30 mins
Hands on


Turn cardboard into a marble race track as a fun way to introduce the law of conservation of energy and energy transformations. Can students predict what will make their marble go further? Who will go the distance?


What you'll need

  • Marble run example
  • Marbles of various sizes
  • Ramp-making materials (cardboard, blocks, rulers and other materials from around the class)
  • “Marble run” worksheet for each group

Energy is everywhere and it changes from one form to another. Let’s explore how the gravitational (or potential) energy of a marble changes to kinetic energy as it travels down a cardboard track.

  1. Show the class an example of a marble run and go over the worksheet together.
  2. With the goal of making the marbles travel as far as possible, get small groups to brainstorm design ideas on their worksheets and start building their marble runs.
  3. Experiment by switching up variables such as:
    • Marble size
    • Ramp length
    • Slope and height
    • Surface material
  4. Talk with students about the challenge and how it relates to energy:
    • What helped the marbles travel further?
    • What forms of energy were involved?
    • Where did the energy come from to make the marble go further?
  5. Introduce the law of conservation of energy.
    • Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can be changed from one form to another
    • In the marble run, gravitational (or potential) energy was changed to kinetic energy
    • The marble will travel further if it has more gravitational (or potential) energy and less energy lost through friction
  6. Discuss examples of energy changing forms and see what questions students have.

Modify or extend this activity

  • Ask students to explain the law of conservation of energy, with examples, in their science notebooks.
  • Have students measure the distance the marble travels and collect the data in a simple table.

Curriculum Fit

Grade 4 Science


  • Energy has various forms

Curricular  competencies

Questioning and predicting
  • Demonstrate curiosity about the natural world 
  • Identify questions about familiar objects and events that can be investigated scientifically
  • Make predictions based on prior knowledge
Processing and analyzing data and information
  • Compare results with predictions
Applying and innovating
  • Co-operatively design projects

Teaching Notes

What is energy?

Energy is the ability or capacity to do work. Energy makes change possible. It is the power or ability to make things happen.

Forms of energy

The marble run involves two forms of energy – gravitational (or potential) energy and kinetic energy.

The gravitational (or potential) energy in the marble will depend on the height of the starting point of the marble run and the size of the marble. As the marble starts to move and the energy changes from gravitational (or potential) energy to kinetic energy, the distance the marble travels will depend on the design of the ramp and the friction involved.

Some energy may be lost due to friction and heat energy.

Video: "What is potential and kinetic energy?"

The law of conservation of energy

The law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed but can be changed. In the marble run activity, students identify the forms of energy and are introduced to the law of conservation of energy.


  • Assess student participation and ability to work in small groups during the marble run challenge.
  • Assess student worksheets for ability to make predictions.
  • Note students’ willingness to contribute ideas and explanations about the marble run challenge.
  • Take pictures or videos to add to student digital portfolios.

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