Making this “Jesus Keeps Us on Track” VBS board game as an activity for the Rocky Railway VBS truly ROCKS! This activity is THE ONE to choose if you are looking for a substitute activity for Imagination Station or a great extended stay activity. The kids feel so empowered to use their creative forces to make a unique game using the Bible points of the week. What is cool is that it weaves in STEM learning about Newton’s law and forces at the same time! And the supplies will not break your bank!
Once the students finish making an apparatus for pushing a gem or milk carton cap, they get to decide how to make it into a game with a scoring system They may draw their own game board or use graphic that displays the Bible points for the week.
Materials needed for each VBS game:
- Corrugated cardboard, cut to approximately 9” x 18” (1 per) with 2 holes punched with awl (1)
- Elastic cord, round-type (cut into 15″ length) (1)
- Brass fasteners (2)
- Toothpick, round (1)
- Wide Straw, either jumbo or milkshake straws (cut into a 4″ length) (1)
- Regular Straw, (cut into 2 pieces of lengths 5″ and 1.5″) (1)
- Glass gem and/or milk carton cap (1)
- Optional: Jesus Keeps Us on Track graphic printed on white paper (1)
General crafting supplies:
- Markers, various colors
- Masking or vinyl tape, various colors, (8 inches per)
Material Prep Note:
Punch 2 holes into the cardboard at the spots on the diagram in Picture 3. My perferred method is using an awl instead of a paper punch because it is quicker and takes less force. Placement is approximately 4″ to 5″ from bottom edges and 0.5″ from the outer edges.
Directions to the students:
Step 1: Make the Plunger Mechanism:
a. Tape wide straw at the bottom end of the cardboard where the holes are located. Make sure it is in a vertical direction leaving about an 0.5″ gap to the very end of the cardboard. Please use this perpendicular taping technique using 4 pieces of tape as shown in Pictures 4 and 5 so that the straw will remain secure through repeated use. (Alternative method: ask an adult to hot glue the straw in place.)
.b. Join the the 2 narrow straws together at a perpendicular angle using 2 pieces of tape. One easy taping technique is shown in the photos below. This creates the plunger apparatus. Place it inside the wide straw when you are finished taping.
c. Tie a brass fastener to each end of the elastic using a simple tie. Insert the brass fasteners in each punched hole and secure by opening them up.
d. Insert the straw plunger into the bigger straw and have an adult make a hole horzontally with the awl near the bottom (Picture 12). Insert the toothpick in the hole that was made with the awl (Picture 13). Wrap the elastic around both sides of the toothpick (Picture 14). The elastic should have some tension on it.
Step 2: Try it out and adjust tension as necessary
Pull the plunger as far back as it will go using the toothpick. . Place an object in front of it and then let it go. See the video below for a demo.
If necessary, adjust the tension of the elastic by looping it more or less times around the toothpick.
Step 3: Turn it into a VBS game
To make it into a gmae, there are 2 options. If desired, glue the “Jesus Keeps Us on Track” to the top of the cardboard at the end away from the plunger mechanism. Otherwise, draw some railroad track on the board and add some targets on the board that relate to the theme of how Jesus helps keep us on track.
If desired, decide on a scoring system. Write the game rules on the board in an empty spot.
Make at Home VBS Craft
If you cannot do VBS in person, why not make this a take home project? Very cheap. The most time-consuming step is cutting the cardboard. A shortcut is to use old campaign lawn signs. The plastic cardboard is so much easier to cut than regular cardboard. Often you can get 2 boards from one regular sized sign.
The investment per kit is minimal. To make 50 kits you can get buy with less than $15 of supplies
- Elastic: $3.99 makes around 57 pieces (about 7 cents each)
- Wide Straws: $3.80 for a 50 ct package (about 8 cents each)
- Regular Straws: $1.99 for a 100 ct package (about 2 cents each)
- Gems: $4.99 for 2 pound package (less than 5 cent each)
- Toothpicks: $0.99 for 500 ct
Tip: If the kit is for kids 6-8 years old, I recommend putting the plunger together (tape the 2 pieces together and poking a hole in the end with the awl).
Extensions: Explore the Physics of Forces and Newton’s 1st Law
This board can be a great way to explore the physics of forces. Have the students make inch markings along the length of the board to be able to measure distances an object is pushed. This video covers a few simple exercises that can be done:
- Have the object being pushed be a combination of a gem sitting on top of the milk cap. Why does only the milk cap go flying whereas the gem does not get pushed (see Newton’s 1st law)?
- Compare how far the milk cap goes with pulling the plunger half way back and all the way back.
- Flip the milk cap over and add gems to it. How far does it get pushed with 1 gem, 2 gem, 3 gems and 4 gems inside?