Explore Together (indoors): Build Trackways

  • camera
  • clipboards and paper
  • drawing and writing materials
  • flat ramps (cardboard, foam core, wood)
  • flexible hoses from sump pumps or shop vacs
  • masking or duct tape
  • small balls or large marbles that will fit through the tubes
  • tubes of different lengths and diameters (packing tubes, paper towel tubes, etc.), some tubes left whole and others cut horizontally to make open troughs 
  • distance
  • down
  • faster
  • ramp
  • slant
  • slower
  • steeper
  • track

MA Standards:

Language/L.PK.MA.6: Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, listening to books read aloud, activities, and play.

MA Draft STE Standards:

Physical Sciences/Motion and Stability; Forces and Interaction/PS2.A: Plan and carry out investigations of the behaviors of moving things.
Physical Sciences/Motion and Stability; Forces and Interaction/PS2.B: Using evidence, discuss ideas about what is making something move the way it does and how some movements can be controlled. [Cause and Effect, Stability and Change]

Head Start Outcomes:

Logic and Reasoning/Reasoning and Problem Solving: Classifies, compares, and contrasts objects, events, and experiences.
Science Knowledge/Scientific Skills and Method: Uses senses and tools, including technology, to gather information, investigate materials, and observe processes and relationships.

PreK Learning Guidelines:

English Language Arts/Language 2: Participate actively in discussions, listen to the ideas of others, and ask and answer relevant questions.

Explore Together (indoors): Build Trackways

© Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Early Education and Care (Jennifer Waddell photographer). All rights reserved.

STEM Key Concepts: A ramp, or inclined plane, is a surface with one end higher than the other; Objects that slide are more likely to move on steeper inclines, and both rolling and sliding objects move faster down steeper inclines

ELA Focus Skills: Speaking and Listening, Vocabulary

Educator Prep: Cut lengths of tape and stick to table-tops or chairs for children to grab while they are building their tracks.

Tell children they will work with a partner to build a long trackway and then observe how a marble moves down the trackway.  

Help children use tape to connect tubes to build a long trackway of tubes and flat ramps. Once children have built their trackways, send a marble down one of them. 

Carefully place the marble on the trackway. If the marble does not go the whole distance, help children figure out why by asking questions such as,

  • What did you notice about where the marble stopped on the trackway? How do you think you can change the track to make it roll farther?
  • What do you think you could do to make the marble roll all the way to the bottom? (make the trackway steeper)

Have children continue to freely explore the materials. Encourage them to use their clipboards to record their predictions and observations.  Be available to write children’s dictated findings if needed. Challenge them to change the shape, slant, and materials of their track so the ball travels the whole length. Listen and engage children when you notice something that is sparking their interest. Ask questions such as:

  • Why do you think the marble went slower down the bumpy track?
  • How can you change the track to make the marble go all the way down the track?

Take photos as children work in pairs or small groups. Encourage children to draw and write about their trackways.

Reflect and Share
Have children share their discoveries, talk about their challenges, and tell how they solved problems. Show some of the photos and drawings and have children describe how they are being scientists. To prompt discussion, ask questions such as,

  • How did you change your track to make the ball travel the whole distance?
  • What did you notice about the way the ball traveled as it left the track, especially if the track curved up at the end?
  • What did you notice happen when you used the tennis ball instead of the golf ball?

English Language Learners: Point to the various ramp-making supplies and name them or describe their uses. Pantomime how to use things, such as blocks to prop up a ramp. Have children repeat the names or descriptions after you.

Adaptation: If younger children will be working in a group, you might prefer to have each child do the activity individually, with one-to-one supervision.

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