Friday, April 17, 2015

ATLAS: Marble Mania

For my most recent ATLAS (At The Library After School) I was inspired by this Maze Maker program done by Anne at sotomorow. It sounded like a fun and easy way for my 3rd-6th graders to have a little fun (and do a little learning at the same time). I threw in a few of my own additions to the straw mazes Anne's tweens created and called the program Marble Mania.

Marbles courtesy of

Toilet Paper Tube Marble Run

Supplies needed:
Toilet paper tubes (cut in half)
Paper towel tubes (cut in half)

I instructed the kids to work together as a group. Their goal: Use toilet paper tubes to transfer a marble across the room. This was harder than they expected. We experimented with paper towel tubes as well. Most of the kids found the longer tubes a little easier to use because it gave them more time to move before the marble fell out. Side benefit: Figuring this out provided the tweens with a sneaky science lesson involving gravity and velocity.

Paper towel and toilet paper tubes, all ready to go.

Marble Mazes

Supplies needed:

About $5 for three bags of marbles and two bags of straws (purchased at my local Dollar Store).

This was the activity that took up the majority of the program time. Like in Anne's program, we used tape and straws to make a maze to blow marbles through. I provided several different kinds of tape in order to introduce the element of friction to the mazes. The masking tape seemed to be the most commonly used.

One of our maze makers at work.
Another maze maker decided to use my camo Duck Tape.

Marble Painting

Supplies needed:
Magnetic marbles (similar to these on Amazon)
Bar magnets
Paper plates

The kids put two colors of paint on a paper plate, and used a magnet to move a marble through it to mix the paint from underneath. Then they took the plate and turned it upside down onto a piece of construction paper to create their artwork.

A piece of our marble artwork.

Tips and Tricks:
  • The Dollar Store is a great place to buy supplies for this program. I spent all of $5 on marbles and straws, and that was pretty much the whole cost of this program.
  • If I were to do this program again, I might do the painting portion first, in order to give the artwork time to dry.
  • Some of the kids were a little confused about the Marble Run activity at first. Practice is definitely in order before any group competition!

All in all this program went pretty well. The kids seemed to have fun and were glad to take their mazes home to show off. I also think they learned a few valuable science related lessons along the way. 

Our next ATLAS (the last of the school year!) is an origami program. Any suggestions for easy origami creations?

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