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Roll or Slide? (Outdoors)

Discover whether an object rolls, slides, or stays put.


  • an outdoor slide
  • First set of objects: objects to send down the slide, including some that will roll (balls, toilet paper rolls) and others that will slide (a chalkboard eraser, a piece of cardboard, a square or rectangular building block)
  • Second set of objects: several additional objects for the “predict and test” activity at the end of this session: an orange, a small box, a football, a triangular and a cylindrical wooden building block
  • clipboard for making a chart of things that slide and roll
  • chart paper labeled “Slide, Roll, Stay in Place”

Key Science Concepts

  • An object placed on a ramp will roll, slide, or stay put.
  • The shape of an object affects whether it will roll or slide or stay put.
  • The motion and speed of a rolling or sliding object is affected by the shape and texture of the object and the texture of the surface on which it is rolling or sliding.


Encourage children to use the words roll, slide, slanted, texture, shape, as well as science process words such as observe, compare, same, alike, different, change, test, and predict.


Tell children that they will test which objects slide or roll down a slide.

  1. One by one, send the first group of objects down the slide. Encourage children to describe how each object moves: Does it roll? Does it slide?
  2. Ask questions to encourage children to describe, predict, and investigate further, for example:
    • How did the (block) move when we sent it down the slide?
    • If we send the block down the slide again, what do you predict will happen? Why do you think that?
  1. Based on your observations, help children sort the objects into three groups: things that roll, things that slide, and things that stay in place. Pass around the objects in each group for children to handle and examine. What do children notice about the shape and texture of the things that roll? The shape and texture of the things that slide? The shape and texture of the things that stay put?
  2. Bring out the objects in the second set (see Materials). Invite children to predict whether an object will be something that rolls, something that slides, or something that stays put. Send each object down the slide and see if the children’s predictions were correct.
  3. Together, add new discoveries to the appropriate column on the “Slide, Roll, Stay in Place” chart. Write the word and draw a simple picture for each item you add to the chart.

Reflect and Share

  • Do some more explorations with the things that stay in place. What do children notice about the shapes and textures of these objects?
  • Try to find ramps that these objects will slide or roll down. What’s the difference between these ramps and the slide?