Monday, September 19, 2016

Marble Run: Engineering a Rollercoaster

Engineering a Roller Coaster
Lesson Plan for 2nd Grade: Collaboration & Communication
Prepared by Ms. Yandell & Ms. Davis
Faith is like a roller coaster ride, strap in, hold on, and trust God.
Mark 11: 22-24 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”


Introduce STEAM to second graders by way of engineering a roller coaster using foam pool noodles and marbles. The purpose of this lesson is to show students that they each have different ideas in their head and they have to work within teams to collaborate and communicate kindly and effectively to get the job done.


  1. 21st-century collaboration skills
  2. 21st-century communication skills


  1. Introduce student contract ideas.
  2. How to share responsibility in the engineering design process.
  3. Being respectful of our words
  4. Understanding the good of the team over their own viewpoint- how to compromise
  5. How to encourage others
  6. When you don’t do your part, it lets the whole team down
  7. Learn basic understanding of the scientific method
  8. Understanding of fundamental physics concepts and the basics of successful roller coaster construction


  1. Foam Noodles ( 4-5 per group)
  2. Marbles (1-2 per group)
  3. Masking Tape
  4. Conflict Resolution baggy
  5. Student Contract


Steps to check for student understanding
  1. After roller coasters are done recap with the following questions:
    1. Did your team work well together today?
      1. Why or why not?
    2. Did you both work on the roller coaster?
    3. Did you listen to each other?
    4. Were your ideas listened to?
    5. Did your team ask for help when you needed it?
    6. Did you follow your student contract page?
    7. Did your team finish the day’s assignment to your satisfaction?
      1. Why? Why not?


Describe activity that will reinforce the lesson
1. Cut the foam tubes in half.
2. Tape the two halves together so you have a 12 foot long piece of tubing.
3. Now the fun part~ experiment with the track!
  • Start by finding an area where you have quite a bit of room to stretch the tube out.
  • Tape one side of the tube onto something somewhat high like a table.
  • Find something to place under the tubing (desks, chairs, books etc.) to make a hill.
  • Must have: Two Hills (one must be taller than the other), One Loop, One curve.  
4. Allow the kids to explore: allow the kids to figure out what did work and what didn’t work for their roller coasters.
What’s Going On?
You are exploring physics! Gravity pulls the marble down the first hill. At the top of the hill, the marble has potential energy (energy that’s stored up and ready to be released). As the marble rolls down the hills the potential energy turns into kinetic energy (energy of motion).

(This lesson was adapted from

Lesson Recap written by Mrs. Yandell:

The marble run! This lesson was a great opportunity for our second graders to learn about good communication and collaboration.  In this lesson, students were asked to engineer a roller coaster using pool noodles and tape, and were given specific instructions such as the design must have one loop and two hills that are different sizes.  Students were split into groups of four and were given twenty minutes to complete their roller coasters.  
Before they started the activity, we discussed as a class the importance of teamwork and the qualities that define working together.  I wanted the students to start the year by working together to do an activity that is challenging, and also learn how to share ideas during the process!

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