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Hand flicking marbles along ruler.

Colossal Collisions activity B3. More with marbles – the impacts of head-on collisions can be observed and even measured.

Activity B3: Straight line impacts [ZIP, 255 KB]

How to use this activity

This is a more controlled version of the previous activity. The impacts of head-on collisions can be observed and even measured.

Students should be looking for patterns and thinking about where the energy of the collision goes.

Discuss what your students think about this being a “fair” test.

  • Are all their trials the same?
  • What might be different? Hint: the amount of energy in the flick!

The extension activity is one solution for addressing this variable.

Extension activity

This activity can be made measurable by using the flicking part of a ballpoint pen to create a consistent force. The distance that the last marble moves can then be measured.

Repeat measurements can be made to make the data more reliable.

Measurements of other combinations can be made also. 

Recording findings

In class discussion, add the observations and findings of this investigation to the chart you started with the Bang activity.

  • Do these findings 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 it is useful to refer 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

Trial 1: “when the marbles were spaced out - the flicked marble bumped into the 2nd one which bumped into the 3rd one. The third one didn’t roll far.”

Trial 2: ... 

The crash energy kind of got passed on from one to the other”

“It didn’t travel as far when the marbles weren’t touching”

“The energy seems to move from one marble to the next”


Adding “Oomph”


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 force of an object in motion is not lost but passes to the object it hits.

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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