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Marbles colliding.

Colossal Collisions activity B2. Have fun with marbles in order to learn more about movement, forces and energy.

Activity B2: Bang! [ZIP, 298 KB]

How to use this activity

This exploration activity lets students trial and observe the effect of marbles colliding. Hopefully, the hula hoop helps contain the marbles!

Working in pairs encourages full involvement, observation, and discussion from both students. Aim for good sharing about what the students observed or what patterns they noticed. There is a chart for them to record their observations and thoughts.

There may be useful opportunities to stop the class to discuss findings. This is a good opportunity to use ‘sequencing’ – when you intentionally sequence the order you ask groups to share so you can build to the most complex ideas and yet value all groups for their sharing.

Sequenced feedback may be along these lines:

  1. what happens to the marbles when they collide,
  2. then differences in impact between a glancing collision and head on,
  3. then the faster the incoming marble moves the faster the crashed one moves,
  4. then noticing how the collision can cause more than one marble to move,
  5. and potentially to the effect of having two marbles hit another marble together.

These things are more easily observed in the next activity where we use a more controlled technique to see these variations.

Recording findings

Posing a Big Question lets students see how their observations and the evidence of several activities build together to make a claim or answer a question.

It helps students focus on using the evidence of observations rather than being distracted with other ideas. The students work on their own observation chart, but you may keep a class version growing on the whiteboard or wall display.


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?


“Marbles pinged off everywhere when they collided.”

“When a marble collided with a still marble, the still marble moved.”

“When a moving marble hits a still one head on, the still marble moves in the same direction as the first marble was going.”

“All the marbles stop moving soon after they collide.”


“Collisions cause still marbles to move.”


“The marbles speed went into the still marble.”


“The angle of collision seems to affect the direction the still marble goes off in.”


“All the marbles slow down because of friction.”


“When one marble crashes into a still one it moves the still one”

Straight line impacts


Speeding Up


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.


  • Forces make objects move or change their movement. As this happens, energy changes occur.
  • The movement 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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