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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Creative Coasters Part Two

After having completed the Creative Coasters activity, this hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) challenge adds to the fun by inviting children to explore the science of friction.   


Materials Needed

  • Aluminum foil
  • Completed coaster
  • Marbles
  • Masking tape
  • Plastic wrap
  • Sandpaper
  • Scissors
  • Timer



  1. Decide whether participants will work independently or be divided into equal groups. (These can be the same groups from the original Creative Coasters activity or they can be rearranged so that children can practice collaborating with others.)
  2. Using scissors, have children cut the aluminum foil, plastic wrap and sandpaper into long rectangular strips.
  3. Have participants line their foam coaster tracks with one of the three different materials by attaching them with masking tape.
  4. Instruct individuals or groups to drop their marble and record the amount of time that it takes for the marble to make its way through their entire track.
  5. Repeat steps three and four using the other materials to see how this affects the length of time it takes for a marble to make it through the coaster. Have each participant record their observations.
  6. Ask children which material allowed the marble to travel faster or slower. Have participants hypothesize why this might be.
  7. Encourage children to test other materials and continue to experiment with their Creative Coasters!


What are we discovering?

When two separate surfaces slide against one another, a force known as friction makes them stick ever so slightly together. The strength of this force can vary greatly depending on if a surface is smooth (glass, ice, etc.) or rough (gravel, rock, sand, etc.). It’s for this reason that in wintertime, we can slip on ice, but if we’re walking on a gravel path, it’s likely that we will maintain our balance. In this hands-on STEM activity, children explore the science of friction by observing firsthand how different types of surfaces produce different amounts of friction. Encourage children to experiment with other materials to see how this affects the speed of their marbles!


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