Whitfield’s eighth grade science course features an activity-based curriculum that emphasizes the importance of trial and error, conceptual design, and precise measurement using the metric system while incorporating physical as well as earth science-related topics.
To introduce several scientific concepts in a fun way, eighth graders kicked off the year by working in small groups to create marble runs. Using large cardboard boxes, a four-foot “tracks” of foam insulation, two file folders, and masking tape, students designed tracks that allowed a marble to move for exactly 30 seconds around the box. Through the design/build process, teams explored engineering and construction challenges, analyzed design variables, and considered factors including potential energy of the marble, the friction of the track’s surface, and the angle of the track’s slope.
“This is a great first project as it helps students to get to know one another as they collaborate toward a shared goal,” said faculty member Jeff Cacciatore. “To be effective group members, students need to have the confidence to express their ideas as well as the willingness to compromise, reflect, revise, and make well-informed design decisions to create a successful marble run.”