Make a mini roller coaster!
Children get too few chances to experiment with materials and to design and build objects of their own creation. These Raceways and Roller Coasters activities allow your students these opportunities, and engage them on many different levels as well. Building these tracks and rolling marbles down them help children to develop problem-solving and teamwork skills and touch upon some basic principles of physics like energy, acceleration and momentum.
If you haven't done them yet, try the other Raceways and Roller Coasters activities (starting with "Marble Races") before creating the super coasters. If you would prefer to just do this activity, see Raceways & Roller Coasters - Marble Races for information on preparing the materials.
Ask your students if they have ever been on a roller coaster before. Have a volunteer draw on the board or on chart paper a line drawing representing the path a roller coaster might take. Ask your students where on the path they think the roller coaster car is traveling quickly, and where on the path it is traveling less quickly. You could also have your students brainstorm a list of words that describe what it’s like to be on a roller coaster.
Use everything you learned about loops, jumps and hills and build a super roller coaster! There are a few rules – the marble must make it to the end of the track, the roller coaster must have at least 1 loop, and the marble has to leave and rejoin the track at least once (meaning it should be in the air at some point!). This sounds tough, but be creative and remember what you learned in the earlier Raceways sessions!
After 10–15 minutes, stop your students and bring them together to share their observations with each other. What is easy and what is difficult? Does anyone have any suggestion for the other teams on how to make a successful roller coaster? This discussion should last no more than 5–10 minutes.
Have teams continue to make their roller coasters. At the end of the session, when all teams are done, bring all of the teams together to share their results. Have each team show off their roller coaster, and ask them to tell the other teams about something that they changed about what they created during the session. Then, have them roll a marble down the track. If the marble doesn’t make it to the end, let them keep trying until they have a successful run. If they are unable to achieve a successful run after several attempts, ask if any of the other teams have any suggestions for things that the reporting team might change, have them make a change and then try rolling again – stay with it until they are successful!