Ramps With Different Surfaces (Outdoors)

Compare how an object moves on two different slanted surfaces.

Materials

  • a variety of balls of different sizes and weights—beach ball, kickball, tennis ball, ping pong ball, Wiffle ball, golf ball, football, etc., 
  • camera or video camera
  • “Different Surfaces and Objects” chart

Key Science Concepts

  • 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.

Vocabulary

Encourage children to use words such as incline, ramp, texture, and surface, descriptive words such as faster, slower, steep, less steep, gentle (a gentle slope), bumpy, smooth, and rough, as well as science process words such as observe, compare, same, different, change, and test.

Directions

Tell children they’ll go outside to explore the way a specific ball moves on inclines with different surfaces. 

  1. Have children locate different inclines outside—for example, a grassy hill, a paved driveway, a playground slide, a gravelly slope, or a sandy hill in the sandbox.
  2. Have them experiment by rolling different balls down the inclines.
  3. Take photos or videotape some of their explorations. Record their conversations, comments, and observations.

Reflect and Share

Encourage children to describe and compare the texture and the steepness of each surface. Record these on the “Different Surfaces and Objects” chart. Then have children indicate whether each incline was good for rolling or not. Ask:

  • Does the ball roll faster/farther when you send it down the grassy hill or the concrete ramp?
  • What do you think is different (about the concrete ramp) that makes the ball roll faster?
  • Why do you think the different balls roll differently?

Extension

What happens if children change the surface the object moves on? Try placing plastic or cardboard on the grass or concrete hill. Put a cardboard tube on a sandy hill. Or place a towel on the slide. Invite children to mark the distance a ball travels on these surfaces and compare that to the distance it traveled before. Does the grass slow down all the balls the same way, or just some of them? How about the sand? Or the towel? Why do they think that is so?

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