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Roller Coasters

Rolling things down ramps and tracks encourages children to explore gravity (the force that pulls things down), friction (the resistance encountered by a moving object), momentum (how hard it is to stop something), and lots more! 

These activities are part of Science World's Big Science For Little Hands program. They were developed and tested with Preschool and Kindergarten educators. 

Gadgets and Contraptions printable guide

Objectives

  • Recognize that machines can make work easier.

  • Use ramps, pulleys, levers and pendulums.

Materials

  • Per Class or Student:
    Foam pipe insulation, cove moulding, hot wheels tracks, cardboard and plastic tubes, etc.
    Masking tape
    Variety of balls (ping pong, golf, etc.)
    Other objects e.g. toy cars, blocks

Key Questions

  • Can you get these objects to roll down the track?
  • Which objects roll down faster? Why?
  • How can we change our track?
  • Can we make the balls go farther?
  • Can you make your track curve?
  • What happens if our track is too steep or too flat?

What To Do

  1. Cut the foam insulation in half, lengthwise, to create 2 tracks.
  2. Set up a basic track (Tape one end to a table or chair or lean it on a few blocks).
  3. Explore! Try rolling some of the balls down the track, encouraging the children to observe which objects roll easily, how fast and how far they go.
  4. Add, subtract and modify the track to create more complicated ‘coasters.

Extensions

  • Roll objects side-by-side on two tracks to compare them e.g. golf ball and ping pong ball.Try making the track turn a corner.
  • Compare different starting heights for the track e.g. a table vs. a chair.
  • Use stools or boxes to create "hills" for the track to go over and under.
  • Put all the tracks together to form one giant roller coaster for the whole group.
  • Divide the children into teams and try racing their roller coasters.