Roller Coaster

Make a roller coaster and give a marble a thrill ride! 

Materials

  • large marbles
  • foam pipe tubing, cut in half lengthwise (2 halves per pair)
    • foam pipe insulation is ideal (1-inch diameter works well for large marbles), which can be found in hardware stores; these can be cut in half to make open troughs
  • masking tape
  • scissors
  • various props: boxes, books, chairs, buckets, cups

Key Science Concepts

  • An object placed on a ramp will roll, slide, or stay put.
  • A rolling object will move faster down a steeper incline and slower down a less steep incline.

Vocabulary

Encourage children to use terms such as roll, bounce, bump, steeper, less steep, steady, and wobbly, and science process words such as observe, predict, test, record, compare, same, different, problem, solve, solution, and change.

Directions

Ask children if they’ve ever seen or ridden on a roller coaster and to describe what it’s like. Tell children they will work in pairs and build a roller coaster for a marble using the foam tubing. Their goal will be to create a roller coaster track with a hill that a marble can ride up and down.

  1. Help children tape one end of the tubing to a table, chair, or shelf. Have the starting point for the roller coaster be the highest point of the roller coaster.
  2. Then have them use props (like toys, books, or boxes) to design a roller coaster track that has a hill. You may need to help them secure the track with tape where needed.
  3. Encourage them to test a marble on the track and see what happens. Is their hill too steep? Did your marble run out of energy before it made it over the hill? Is your track steady or wobbly? Explain that by testing the track, they can figure out what the problem is and fix it.  

Reflect and Share

Encourage children to share their discoveries, talk about their challenges, and describe how they solved their problems. Ask:

  • How would you describe the track you built?
  • Did you have any problems when you first started building your track? What were they and how did you solve them?
  • How did working in pairs help you build your tracks?
  • Did you test out your track? How did you do this?  How did testing help you build a better track?

Help children to record their observations, ideas, and questions. Take photos or videos and encourage children to draw and write about their constructions.

Extension

If children easily create one hill, challenge them to create two, using the same amount of track.  

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