Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.

Sign up now for tons of free lessons like this one!

Energizing Everything Unit
Why is the first hill of a roller coaster always the highest?
Mystery 3 image
Why is the first hill of a roller coaster always the highest?
Scroll for prep
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen

DISCUSS:

The first hill of a roller coaster is always the highest. Why can't the second or third hill be higher than the first?

Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen

DISCUSS:

Why does the marble make it over the lower hill, but not the higher one?

Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen

Time check!

The following Bumper Coaster activity can take up to an hour.

If your time is limited, you might want to save the activity for your next science lesson.

Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen

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 their final experiments at the start of the next session.

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

Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading, and extension activity in the extensions.

Full Screen
Exit Full Screen

Extensions

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the Exploration and Activity you just completed.
Full Screen
Exit Full Screen

Activity: Swinging Science

Explore energy using a playground swing. Swinging with Style is a playground activity that gives kids a chance to burn off energy while learning science. Your students will gather data in the playground, then graph and analyze their results.

Science of Swinging is a more extended exploration of pendulums. It provides detailed background information for the teacher.

Both resources were created by Teach Engineering, a digital library of classroom science resources compiled by university educators with National Science Foundation support.

Full Screen
Exit Full Screen

Distance Learning Challenge: Experiment With Hills

In the last lesson, we provided instructions for making a basic Bumper Coaster, using paper, scissors, and tape. That coaster starts with a hill, but the rest of the track is level.

Here’s a challenge: can you add more hills to that bumper coaster track? You can use paper, scissors, and tape. To make your hills, you can stack boxes or books.

Your track starts with a tall hill. Can you add a medium hill and a small hill?

Full Screen
Exit Full Screen
Overview
Grade 4th
Topic Energy, Motion, & Electricity
Focus Energy Transfer & Engineering
2017 reviews
Print Prep
Activity Prep

THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JULY 1, 2019. Here is a link to the previous version.
In this Mystery, students will explore how high the hills of a roller coaster can be. In the activity, Bumper Coasters (Part II), students add hills to the Bumper Coaster they built in Mystery 2 and experiment to build a deeper understanding of hills and energy.

Preview activity

Number of students:
Bumper Coaster Hill Tracks worksheet Print 8 copies
Bumper Coaster with Hills worksheet Print 30 copies
Bumper Coaster with Hills Answer Key worksheet Print 1 copy
Low Hills, Medium Hills, and Hill Holder worksheet Print 8 copies
Box
Any box measuring 20 cm (or 8”) high will work. The most important thing is to have enough space for the track and the students to work. A stack of books will also work. You can even use empty space on the wall to attach the roller coaster, as long as the track sits at 20 cm (8” high).
Details
8 boxes
Bumper Coaster Tracks and Alligator from Energizing Everything Mystery 2
8 set of tracks and alligators
Pencil
30 pencils
Rulers
8 rulers
Scissors
30 pairs
File Folder Labels (Stickers)
Tape also works. We prefer stickers because they are easier to distribute in a classroom.
Details
16 stickers
Paper Clips
144 clips
Small Marbles
16 marbles
Prep Instructions

NOTE: If you want to make Bumper Coasters with foam tubing, you can view the previous version of this lesson.

We recommend students work in the same groups of four from Mystery 2. Homeschool students can work on their own, but will need to build all roller coaster tracks and hills.

Make Sure You Have Enough Space

Each roller coaster with hills extends about 1.2 meters (a little over 4 feet) from the box, stack of books, wall, or other surface that it’s attached to. Each group of four students will need this amount of space to work through the activity. If you don’t have enough floor space, a few student desks pushed together with a stack of books on top should work.

Estimate Your Time Needs

The entire Mystery with the activity will take about an hour. There is a natural stopping point after students finish building their roller coaster tracks and before they start experimenting. If you are pressed for time or have a short class period, we recommend splitting this lesson into two sessions.

Prepare Materials

Cut enough stickers so that you have two for each group of four students that will build a roller coaster. The stickers need to be no wider than 2 centimeters so that they can fit and adhere to the roller coaster track.

Teacher Tip

Experimenting with marbles is fun, but it can also be distracting! We recommend waiting to distribute the marbles and worksheets until after students have finished building their tracks and hills.

Overview
Grade 4th
Topic Energy, Motion, & Electricity
Focus Energy Transfer & Engineering
2017 reviews
Slow internet or video problems?