Marble runs can be made on any scale with a few standard household materials. This is a great project for kids to create and problem-solve as they lay out their marble tracks, test them and make adjustments. We constructed the mini marble runs in shoe boxes, and the mega marble runs on sheets of cardboard hung from the picture molding. Colored masking is not essential, but it quickly turns a project into a piece of art.
Cardboard tubes (paper towel, wrapping paper, toilet paper tubes, etc.)
Large cardboard packing box (or large pieces of cardboard)
Scissors and packing tape
Colored masking tapes (from the hardware store)
30 minutes to make each version, countless minutes of fun!
(1) Decorate the cardboard tubes with colored masking tape. It’s easy to tear, adds plenty of fun color, and strengthens the tube. This is where you can include younger kids. (2) Cut each tube in half and decorate the inside with tape (think racing stripes). You can tape designs to the shoe box too. (3) Lay out the “half-pipes” inside the box so that they connect. Trim as needed. Use the sides and the back of the box. Secure with tape. (4) Cut a hole in the top for the marble or spring ball. Test the marble run, adjust, and repeat.
For the mega version, use one or more large pieces of cardboard from packing boxes. (5) Frame the cardboard sheets in masking tape. Hang them on the wall with twine and a tack, or from the picture molding. (6) Tape the tubes onto the cardboard, testing the marble run as you go. (7) You will probably need to add blockers at key points; we used bits of cardboard taped to the ends of tubes. (8) Try different types of marbles and spring balls; each one behaves differently. Have fun!
Trouble-shooting your marble-run means looking for any parts of the project that keeps your marble from reaching the end. As you add tubes, test your marble run and find out what’s working and what’s not. You might adjust the position of the tube, the angle, or the distance from the preceding tube. In some cases you may need to add a stopper to keep the marble from flying off the end.
Have on hand for next Friday’s project:
Packs of Post-it notes
Sharpie pen or markers
Curious Jane, founded by contributor Samantha Razook Murphy, offers project-based after-school programs and summer camps, revolving around creativity in the arts and sciences.