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Experiment with a marble rolling into a paper cup.

Colossal Collisions activity B4. Final challenges to help students learn about the role of forces and energy in movement.

Activty B4 Adding Oomph [ZIP, 282 KB]

How to use this activity

Focus on how consistent students are in the way they do this investigation.

  • Do they release the marble from the same position each time?
  • Are they measuring from the same position each time?
  • What might it mean if they don’t do this?

The concept of “variables” in experiment design is an opportunity here. 

  • Can the students start to see a pattern or relationship emerging between how fast something is moving and the mass of the moving object?

How much you clarify the difference between weight and mass depends a lot on students’ age and stage of understanding. Likewise, the difference between speed and velocity. Velocity is not generally introduced until senior secondary years.

Recording Findings

Do the findings of this investigation help us answer the big question? Do they add evidence that our ideas are correct or bring up something new that needs to be considered?

Students may have misconceptions about the answer, so refer back to the evidence. What have we seen?

Adding multiple experiences means they have more evidence to draw on to develop their answer and be sure of what they are finding.


What happens when marbles crash?


Observations / Patterns

What we think was the cause of this observation or pattern?

How does this help us answer the big question?


(Already done)


Straight line impacts

(Already done)


The energy seems to move from one marble to the next


Adding “Oomph”

“When the marble crashes into the cup the cup moves”

“The heavier the object crashing the more the cup moves”

“Heavier things have more “oomph” or energy when they are moving?” 

“This is what pushes the paper cup.”

“The bigger and faster the marble, the more “oomph” or momentum it seems to have.”

Summative exercise

A final writing exercise bring this series of activities together. It can be done individually or in groups. This allows you to determine to what extent the students have achieved the learning outcomes. It gives an opportunity to apply their learning.

The use of a Claim / Evidence / Reasoning approach is particularly useful for students learning to use evidence to support their ideas.

Claim = A one-sentence answer to the question you are investigating.

Evidence = the data or research you gathered in investigating the question that supports your claim.

Reasoning = explains why the evidence supports the claim, provides a logical connection between the evidence and the claim.

More information can be found online about using this approach.

Where it fits in the New Zealand Curriculum

Nature of Science strand

Investigating in Science - exploring, predicting, defining, analysing. 

  • Science activities can be used to develop any of the Nature of Science (NoS) sub strands.
  • Identify aspects of Investigating in Science that your students need to develop or understand more fully.
  • Then frame your lesson to be very clear about these things when you do them.

NZ Curriculum | Science achievement objectives(external link)

Capability focus

Use Evidence. 

The five science capabilities (TKI - Science online)(external link)

Contextual strand

Physical World, Achievement Objective: explore, describe and represent patterns and trends for everyday examples of physical phenomena, such as movement, forces etc.

Big science idea

Energy is not lost; it changes forms.


  • Movement is caused by a force.
  • The energy of an object in motion is not lost but passes to the object it hits (as motion, sound, heat).

Capability concepts

  • Quality observations take time and are done from many angles.
  • There are patterns and relationships in what we observe.
  • Explanations in science are based on evidence gathered.

Possible learning objectives

The students can…

  • demonstrate that the motion of a moving marble is passed to a still one in a crash
  • identify and describe patterns involving collisions
  • share evidence to answer a bigger question: What happens when marbles crash?


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