Monday, July 28, 2008

Marble Ruuuuun.......

Today we rose to Kidmade's challenge to build the longest marble run we possibly could, just using carboard and duct tape.
This month's challenge is to engineer the longest marble ramp you can using only cardboard and duct tape. Feel free to use chairs, tables, railings and ladders to support your ramp and decorate to your hearts content with paint,markers and fiddly-bits. Your ramp can be a straight run or zig-zag down a wall. We're looking for total ramp length.
I was sold on the project as soon as I read about the duct tape. Almost any experience is improved by the judicious application of duct tape

Our marble run was a whopping 42 feet and 8 inches long. Or in Ben and Shira talk, it was about 7 daddies long. For some strange reason they use Marc's height as a standard of measurement and most things are compared to this.

I am not sure who had more fun, Lydia and me, or the children. Who would have thunk that building a marble run could be so much fun. (Who am I kidding, I knew it was going to be fun. I'm the mom who loves building train layouts with her children, of course I was going to enjoy building marble runs!)

I started off trying to pretend that this was a learning experience by trying to teach the children about gradients but the kids were having none of it. They just wanted to build and test.

Thank goodness for Freecycle. I put out a call for empty cardboard tubes and was royally rewarded.

Here are our supplies, all ready to rock and roll. As you can see, I went more than a little overboard, but I didn't want to run out.

I never thought I would ever be thankful that we have three stories (I'd kill to live in a ranch), but today, I was thankful for the additional height. We started building our run on the banisters at the third floor landing.

Lydia made us some great elbow joints by snipping toilet rolls, bending and taping them.

The kids were diligent little testers of every step of the way. Here are Benny and Sadie dropping marbles down the chute....

....and here is Ben catching the marbles. Yay, this leg works.

Notice the judicious use of Tinkertoy parts to act as risers. By this stage the marble run was on the second floor bannisters.

The final run...

Sadie supervising the marble collection at the end of the run.

I set the collection box at a slight angle and it allowed the kids to go wild with marbles with no fear of them running all over the place. You should have heard the delighted little voices as they let the marbles go down the tubes.

The last exercise was to measure the length of the run. To do this, we measured it with a piece of string. Then we folded the string in half over and over again until we had a manageable piece of string.

The only little bit of homeschooling happened right here at the end. The kids measured that the folded string was 32 inches long and that we had 16 pieces of equal length. Thus they worked out that our marble run was 512 inches long. At this stage we lost the kids' interest and I ended up finishing off the calculations.

This is an activity that I can definitely see us doing again in the future.


Kez said...


LB said...

You guys always seem to do the coolest stuff!

How long did it take you to get all the tubes - was it just one freecycle request?

Shez said...

Thanks. We have a lot of fun. I want the kids to look back at their childhood and remember it as a very happy time.

It was just one freecycle request and a large box that a new light fixture came in. My friend Lydia's mother had a few very long tubes for us as well.

This is definitely a project we'll do again.

Lostcheerio said...


C'mon, you didn't blog about Ben saying, "We're not putting big ones down any more because... we ran out of big ones!" HAHAHAHA!!! And Shira: "Why are they putting the biggest marbles down the chute?" and you and I saying simultaneously: "Because they're boys." *cackle*

Definitely a richly entertaining experience. I'm still giggling.

barrellfullofmonkeys said...

That. Is. So. Cool! My boys would LOVE to come play marbles at your house!! The best Christmas gift we gave our boys last year was a plastic marble run (one that you can form a run, take it apart and begin again). They still spend quite a bit of time most days constructing new races.

Kathy D.

Happy Campers said...

AWESOME idea! My son loves the marble runs at the children's museums, but the toy kits are always soooo expensive.

This sould like a perfect project, and it really sounds like your house was made for something just like this!

Julie said...

Wow - I think that looks like a great project! Will certainly be trying that one. We might have to move to get one as long as yours - although maybe we could use a shorter daddy!!

Anonymous said...

YAY! A fellow teacher and I did something like this at school one year but it was the sort of thing that after running all the way in one direction with a slight drop, then the tube ends and the marble falls to the next level where it again runs the length of the wall, going the other direction and dropping a bit. Back and forth, back and forth for a looooong run. It was so popular that when classes changed we had to stand out there collecting the marbles in order to get children to quit running them down the tubes. Otherwise some kids would never have made it into class. ;-)

DJ said...

What A fun project! Freecycle is a great resource.

Michele said...

What a great idea!

Anonymous said...

That is SOOOOOO awesome!!!

Grit said...

WOW! I've stumbled into this blog and feel like i've come home. big smackeroos XX