STEM Activity Newton's Cradle Challenge

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289 Ratings
Teachers Are Terrific
Grade Levels
5th - 6th
Formats Included
  • Zip
23 pages
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Our 4th grade GATE students LOVED this activity! We have been studying Newton's laws and they all think physics is the best thing ever now!
My students did a wonderful job with this activity. I loved how they made their modifications without even being asked. They really wanted it to work!
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Here's a perfect way to learn about Newton's 3rd Law. This upper elementary STEM Challenge is a student favorite and easy prep for you. Editable lab sheets are included and will guide students through the design process.


New to the resource- simplified lab sheets in 2 formats, new photos, and two forms for the constraints of the task.

Note: This challenge is available as part of money-saving bundles!

What is the challenge?

Students will use materials to design and create a Newton’s Cradle. In this event, students will review what they know about the laws of motion- especially the third law. Students will have to build the frame for the device, a way to attach strings to the marbles, and a way to attach strings to the frame. This can include measuring as the length of the strings is a factor.

What is your prep?

You will need supplies in addition to this package. This includes craft sticks, straws or beads, masking tape, marbles, string, low-temp glue guns, and glue- one glue gun per team. The option of using low-temp glue for the assembly is yours to make. You may want to ask for parental help in your classroom- depending on the age of your students.

NOTE: This was tested with fifth graders and is recommended for that age group or older students. This is an amazing challenge, but it is a challenge. It may take many tries to get the strings attached and working. Students will love the task and cheer when their device works - even if it works imperfectly!

The package specifically includes:

  • Cover
  • Teacher background
  • Materials and preparation page
  • 9 pages of teacher directions
  • Constraints list in 2 styles
  • A special page of information about Newton’s Laws of Motion
  • 5 pages of photographs
  • Student lab sheet in 2 versions
  • Scoring rubric
  • Terms of Use page
  • Forms for this challenge are provided in an editable format!
  • Student answer sheets are not included, but samples from student work are included in the teacher direction pages.
  • The page count listed for this package includes everything.

This challenge will need 1 - 2 class sessions to complete. We needed two full-class sessions to complete this project.

This challenge works perfectly with these Newton challenges:

Or you can purchase all three challenges in money-saving bundles:


The simplified version of the third law is: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

So How Does This Apply to Newton’s Cradles?

This is easily demonstrated with a purchased Newton’s Cradle. We had to drop one marble, then 2, then 3, and then 4 to get every student to see that the force is always equal and works the same on opposite sides. Building a Newton’s cradle is the perfect item to share with the third law of motion.


You might also like these STEM events about Force and Motion:


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Total Pages
23 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.


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