STEAM Challenge: Design a game that celebrates the earth!

Mountains matter! Landforms and bodies of water sustain the planet and the life on it. They keep the ground stable and create places where life can grow. In our Celebrating Our Planet STEAM Challenge series in partnership with SDG&E, we challenge you to create a working marble maze game with at least three landforms or bodies of water. Start by learning about different kinds of landforms and bodies of water. Then, play with the forces of gravity and friction to win your maze!

Our Bumpy Planet
Landforms and bodies of water are natural features of the earth’s surface and include hills, mountains, canyons, islands, rivers, deserts, mesas, volcanos and more! Landforms and bodies of water are often created from natural shifts in the planet. When combined together, they make up a terrain, and their arrangement in the landscape is known as topography. Think about the last time you went hiking or on a road trip. What landforms and bodies of water did you encounter and how did they affect your travel?


Marble Maze Challenge Tutorial

GRADE: 3-6


  • Cardboard lid (or shallow box)
  • Construction paper/newspaper
  • Straws
  • Scissors
  • Pencil and paper
  • Glue and colored tape
  • Yarn
  • Marble
  • Markers
  • Timer (optional)

Create Your Marble Maze

Plan Maze Design
Explore your materials and consider your plan for your game. Create two to three quick sketches. Pick a favorite design and begin building your game.

Test and Play Maze
Test your design throughout the process and make changes as needed. When done, invite others to play!

Considerations for Maze

  • Your marble needs to fit through all the pathways and, when tilting and moving, make its way from one end of the game board to the other.
  • Remember to include at least 3 landforms/bodies of water in your design.
  • How do materials added on the path affect the speed of your marble (move faster or more slowly)?


  • Lay out all of your parts before gluing them down, so you can make changes before committing to your design.
  • Use the glue to first draw lines and then place the straws and yarn on top.
  • Build up! Paper can be used to make 3-D forms. Experiment with ways to make and attach them to your game.


Congratulations on completing your challenge!

  • What did you learn while creating your marble maze?
  • Share your discoveries with others!
  • Additional Challenge: Change the rules of your game and make it new!

Subject Area Connections and Standards for Grades 3-6

Subject Area Connections (Grades 3 – 6)

Science: Landforms and bodies of water; topography; friction and gravity
Technology: Recycling; tools – scissors; online resources
Engineering: Planning and design; maze assembly
Art: Kinetic art, sculpture, 3D building with paper, eco-art forms
Math: Measuring; predicting time

Next Generation Science Standards (3 – 5)

  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time or cost.
  • Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and/or atmosphere interact.

Common Core Math Standards (3 – 5)

  • Tell and write time to the nearest minute and measure time intervals in minutes.
  • Measure areas by counting unit squares (square cm, square m, square in, square feet, and improvised units).

National Core Art Standards (3 – 6)

  • Brainstorm multiple approaches to a creative art or design problem.
  • Demonstrate openness in trying new ideas, materials, methods and approaches in making works of art and design.

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