Grab some marbles! This simple science experiment is such an easy and fascinating way to demonstrate how energy is transferred from one object to another.

Energy is defined as the ability to do work. We learned about the difference between potential energy (stored energy), and kinetic energy (the energy of moving things). Our ping pong ball shooters were the perfect thing to learn about potential and kinetic energy! When you stretch the balloons, they have potential energy, and when you release them, they have kinetic energy which they transfer to the ping pong balls, thus shooting it across the room.

Then we did an experiment to further study the transfer of energy from one object to another.

For this experiment, all you need is a ruler with a groove in the middle and some marbles.

First, we lined up three marbles in the middle and one marble at the edge. I asked the boys what they thought would happen when I flicked the marble. They thought that the marbles in the middle would roll away.

Surprise! Only one of the marbles rolled away!

We repeated the experiment with different configurations of marbles (like shooting 2 at 3), and pretty soon the pattern emerged: the number of marbles that you flick equals the number of marbles that roll away. In other words, the rolling marble can only transfers its energy to the marble it collides with, which transfers the energy to the next marble, and so on.

Tips:

In order to get the best results with this experiment, you’ll want to make sure that the surface you are working on is level. Marbles roll away when you don’t want them to if there is any slant to your table!

Also, kids will need to give the marble a good, solid flick. Not too wild – you don’t want marbles all over the place! But too weak of a flick will not give you great results.

Looking for more simple science experiments?

Car Science Experiments – Use toy cars to study air resistance and mass.

Lift water with a working Archimedes’ Screw – this is a lot of fun!

Demonstrate Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion with an Epic Bottle Rocket!

1. Magic and Mayhem Dec 31, 2013

I love this! What an easy way to cover energy, and what kid doesn't love playing with marbles? :) Putting this on the list of fun to do with my middle kids this week. Thanks!

2. Joanna Jan 16, 2014

Thanks for posting these great experiment ideas! I am a home schooling mom (strong in history and weak in science). Finding these other easy-to-do activities that relate to our science studies are a GOD SEND! I love the great explanations and the visuals as well. Cheers!

3. Colleen Mar 2, 2014

Sarah - I love your ideas and the many things I've ready on your blog! This fits with our current week of curriculum for many of the viewers I have on my blog. I would love to have you link it up on my Wonderful Wednesdays link-up to share! Thanks for posting - Blessings, Colleen

4. Barbara Jul 8, 2014

Physics is an under taught and EXCITING branch of science! I am always looking for new ideas. Using this for VBS. Thank you for sharing!

5. Veronica Nov 30, 2014

I love this idea. I have been on the computer for two hours trying to find an idea that explains the amount of energy transferred in an energy flow chart and this explains it just right. Thanks. Simple and easy to follow.

6. rylan Nov 23, 2015

this is a fraud

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8. Vanessa Nov 23, 2017

So easy to get if you do a experiment

9. Kim Mercer Nov 5, 2019

Thanks for this explanation! I'm going to use this idea with my science classes this week. Simple, but a great demonstration of energy transfer.