Mark Day School
39 Trellis Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903


MATH: Students practice math skills that include measuring, interpreting and graphing data, and understanding outliers and medians.

SCIENCE: Students apply scientific thinking as they conduct experiments, study variables, formulate a hypothesis, and draw conclusions, as well a practice engineering skills as they create their final build.

SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LITERACY (SEL): Students must use good communication and cooperation skills to collaborate and share tasks. They also practice overcoming disagreements and obstacles along the way.

CREATIVITY: Students apply creativity to design and imagine their ramps.

CRITICAL THINKING: Students must think critically about testing different variables and making adjustments to their design.

COLLABORATION: Students must work together in teams of two to complete the project.

GROWTH MINDSET: Students practice using a growth mindset to overcoming challenges along the way.

In this two-week intensive unit, students aim to answer the driving question, “How can I get a marble to move on its own?” The project entails making cardboard ramps of different kinds to investigate some of the factors that cause marbles to roll farther and faster. They first conduct formal experiments to test several different variables such as ramp height, ramp length, and marble mass. Students gather data by measuring marble roll distances, pool their data, and enter it on line plots to better analyze how manipulating different variables affects the outcomes. After these initial explorations, students work in teams of two to draw a design they believe will work. 

During the final build, students are given various challenges such as “make a marble roll that knocks over a target in the middle of the run and then keeps going at least 12 inches” and “make a marble roll in which the marble turns at least three corners before it stops.” Their materials includes blue tape, wooden blocks, and cardboard tubes. If their initial designs don’t work, students make modifications until they reach success.