Why is the first hill of a roller coaster always the highest?
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Why is the first hill of a roller coaster always the highest?
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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?

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DISCUSS:

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

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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.

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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 their final experiments at the start of the next session.

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 and Activity you just completed.
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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.

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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?

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Print Prep
Activity Prep

THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JULY 1, 2019. Here is a link to the previous version.
In this lesson, 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 Lesson 2 and experiment to build a deeper understanding of hills and energy.

Preview activity

COVID-19 Adaptations
Digital worksheets available
Teacher demo recommended

Students at home
Set up Bumper Coasters (Part 2) (with foam tubing or paper) to demonstrate over video conference. Students need the Bumper Coaster with Hills worksheet (printed or digital) to record their observations.
Students at school
Set up Bumper Coasters (Part 2) (with foam tubing or paper) as a teacher demonstration. Students need the worksheets to record their observations.
Number of students:
Bumper Coaster Hill Tracks printout 1 per group
Bumper Coaster with Hills worksheet 1 per student
Bumper Coaster with Hills Answer Key teacher-only resource 1 per class
Low Hills, Medium Hills, and Hill Holder printout 1 per group
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
1 box per group
Bumper Coaster Tracks and Alligator from Energizing Everything Lesson 2
1 set of tracks and alligator per group
Pencil
1 pencil per student
Rulers
1 ruler per group
Scissors
1 pair per student
File Folder Labels (Stickers)
Tape also works. We prefer stickers because they are easier to distribute in a classroom.
Details
2 stickers per group
Paper Clips
18 clips per group
Small Marbles
2 marbles per group
Prep Instructions

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

We suggest students work in the same groups of four from Lesson 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 lesson 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.

Extensions
Download this Lesson to your device so you can play it offline: