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What makes roller coasters go so fast?
Energizing Everything Unit | Lesson 2 of 8

What makes roller coasters go so fast?

Energizing Everything Unit | Lesson 2 of 8
Lesson narration:
Scroll for prep
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DISCUSS:

How do roller coaster cars move if they don’t have an engine? (Where do they get their energy from?)

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If you need a natural stopping point!

Teachers: If you are short on time, this is a good stopping point. We recommend leaving your students' tracks set up so they can get right to experimenting at the start of the next session.

If you’re continuing right now, advance to the next slide.

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If you need a natural stopping point!

Teachers: If you are short on time, this is a good stopping point. The next experiment will require your students to get additional marbles.

If you’re continuing right now, advance to the next slide.

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Extensions

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the Exploration & Activity which you just completed.

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Video: People-Powered Theme Park

An Italian restaurant owner had an idea. He wanted to build amusement park rides that were powered by the people riding them. Forty years later, his restaurant is famous for his homemade people-powered rides. To ride these rides, people have to put energy in by pedaling or pushing or climbing.

Take a quick tour and find out what it’s like to provide the energy for a ferris wheel ride in this short video.

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Video: Meet a Roller Coaster Designer

Check out this short video from PBS Kids. Chris Gray decided he wanted to be a roller coaster designer when he was just 8 years old. Today, he has the job he dreamed of as a boy.

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Activity: More Science with Marbles

In the Bumper Coaster experiments, a moving marble gave energy to the target marble and made it move. Your class can continue to explore what happens when marbles collide with a game of Ring Taw. To win this game, students have to figure out what will happen when one marble bumps another. You'll find instructions on how to play, a list of what you need, and a worksheet for students right here. Show your students how to shoot marbles with this video demonstration.

For more experiments with colliding marbles, check out this lesson from master teacher Melissa Romano. (For this lesson, students need to know the concept of mass.)

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Distance Learning: Make a Bumper Coaster at Home

All you need is paper, tape, a ruler, and some boxes or books to make a hill at one end.

Watch this video to see how to build a bumper coaster track and see it in action.We didn’t make an alligator for the end of our bumper coaster, but we encourage you to make one for yours!

Watch this video if you’ve lost your marbles. (You can make mock marbles out of aluminum foil.)

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Lesson narration:

Grade 4

Energy, Energy Transfer, & Electricity

Collisions & Energy Transfer

4-PS3-1, 4-PS3-3

Activity Prep

Print Prep

THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JULY 1, 2019. Here is a link to the previous version.
In this lesson, students explore how energy can be stored as height. In the activity, Bumper Coasters (Part I), students build paper roller coasters. Students release marbles down the roller coaster track to understand height energy and energy transfer.

Preview activity
COVID-19 Adaptations
Digital worksheets available
Teacher demo recommended

Students at home
Set up Bumper Coasters (Part 1) (with foam tubing or paper) to demonstrate over video conference. Watch this video to see how to make a paper bumper coaster in about 10 minutes. Each student needs the Distance & Height Experiments and the Collision Experiments worksheets (printed or digital) to record their observations
Students at school
Set up Bumper Coasters (Part 1) (with foam tubing or paper) as a teacher demonstration. Watch this video to see how to make a paper bumper coaster in about 10 minutes. Students need the Distance & Height Experiments and the Collision Experiments worksheets to record their observations

Exploration

12 mins

Wrap-Up

3 mins

Grade 4

Energy, Energy Transfer, & Electricity

Collisions & Energy Transfer

4-PS3-1, 4-PS3-3

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