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Roller Coaster!

Ideas from Teachers


(Gr. 5-8)
(Gr. 5-8)
Science in the 6th grade at the Avery Middle School is physical science. It is a wonderful fit with active 10- and 11-year-olds.

After learning the vocabulary of physics with demonstrations as entertaining as possible, I show NOVA's "Roller Coaster" program. I see this program five times every year and still love it. The students are always fascinated, and enjoy relating their own roller coaster experiences.

We build roller coasters from pipe insulation, bend them into various shapes, and measure the distances travelled. We then compare those distances to learn what form of roller coaster will make a marble or steel ball travel the greatest distance. The students do a required number of trials using specified criteria.

Once the "lab" is done, students are free to create their own coasters—and what creations they make! One class used all the pipe insulation to create a single coaster, held the track in their hands to manipulate the speed, and had the marble travel 80 feet, through loops and hills.

Sent in by
Jane M. Tyler
Avery Middle School
Somers, CT


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Roller Coaster!
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