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Roller Ball Race

Test force, motion, and friction. Build an adjustable roller ball race track with a cardboard box.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. During a unit of study on gravity, ask students to define friction. Have students think of everyday experiences involving force, motion, and friction. Talk about how friction acts upon moving objects to slow them.
    2. In small groups, students design roller ball race tracks from recycled cardboard boxes and construction paper. One way is to turn a box on its side and reassemble it so one side bends down as a ramp.
    3. Stabilize the box with masking tape. Cut box top flaps into ramp supports. Create different angles.
    4. Cut paper to cover box surfaces. Attach with Crayola School Glue. Air dry.
    5. Students mark ramps with lanes and label ramp support levels with Crayola Washable Markers.
    6. Ask students to gather balls of different sizes, shapes, and surface textures. Mold balls with Crayola Model Magic. To vary the weight and texture, add aquarium gravel. Air dry overnight.
    7. Cut different surfaces (sandpaper, aluminum foil, fabric) to attach to ramps to vary the friction.
    8. Students experiment! Predict rolling speeds of various combinations of balls, ramp levels, and friction surfaces. Create data grids with markers. Use a stopwatch to time experiments. Students record relative or actual ball speeds. Color code data. Students report their findings.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Participate in shared research and writing projects.

    MATH: Draw a picture graph and a bar graph (with single-unit scale) to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put together, take-apart, and compare problems4 using information presented in a bar graph.

    SCI: Analyze data to determine the relationship between friction and the motion of objects.

    SCI: Plan and carry out investigations of how the change in motion and/or shape when objects touch or collide is related to the speed of the objects.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: What is Gravity? by List Trumbauer; Why Do Balls Bounce?: All about Gravity by Rob Moore; What is Friction? by Lisa Trumbauer; Friction by Matt Mullins; Friction and Resistance by Chris Oxlade; Why Do Moving Objects Slow Down?: A Look at Friction by Jennifer Boothroyd

    Students work in small groups to collect and evaluate data. Use data to draw conclusions about force, motion, and friction. Using data, students evaluate roller ball race tracks to determine what improvements to make for better results


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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