Looking for FREE Resources?

Roller Coasters!

You completely read the title correctly.
Roller Coasters!

So, about a month ago…after many requests….I decided it was time for Roller Coasters.

I put together an excellent plan!
I thought.

We talked about roller coasters and what we know about them. This was most informative, especially when I posed this question:
What if the second hill on a coaster was taller than the first? Would it work?

Here’s the class chart we made with our ideas about coasters and the drawings of two hills. The idea that the second hill cannot be taller than the first was not a sure thing! So, I said, “OK, let’s test it!”
I gave each team a tube and told them to make a two hill coaster with the second hill taller than the first.

Let’s back up.
We gotta talk about the tubes!

Tubes came from a local home improvement store. You find them in the plumbing area. The tubes are actually used for insulating pipes. I bought about thirty. I bought so many I just took the box, too.
Smart, right! Now, I have a place to store all those tubes!

Next, you have to cut them.

The tubes just happen to have this nifty opening and it’s fairly easy to just slide scissors along that line.
Then you have to do the OTHER side!

 Well, lucky me! The tubes I bought had a little line down the center of the reverse side. I was able to cut either right on the line or close to it and wah-lah

All the tubes are cut in half!

So, back to the kids and the experiment with the hills.
Here they are- hard at work:

Here’s the best part. Some of them really thought it would work. The looks on their faces when it did NOT work was priceless! True learning!

Anyway, now for the next step in this process. BEFORE we design the ultimate roller coaster–
I decided we needed to learn about energy- specifically kinetic and potential!

So I designed a rotating station task card set.

We had 8 stations! Two involved reading and answering questions:

One task used a website about roller coasters (which was very cool). It shows the kinetic and potential energy along the coaster track:

Click on the picture to go to the roller coaster website!

Another used a car track and marble:

And there were more!
And it was all great fun and we learned a lot about kinetic and potential energy.

Then I had this brilliant idea that friction might also be part of a coaster and we had Friction Lab day:

Well, now…
to be honest
Friction Lab day was not what I expected. We learned a lot, but it has pretty much nothing to do with roller coasters.

The only thing that saved me on this one was:


I gave each team THREE tubes and a roll of tape and a little marble and off they went to create these:

They had to have a loop and at least three hills. We built and re-built and tested and re-built and finally presented our masterpieces!

It was quite spectacular.

About two days after we finished I found a bag of giant marbles that would have been perfect.

On a good note, the tubes are now stored nicely in the giant box and waiting for next year!


  1. Alison Rose says

    This is AMAZING! Do you by chance remember the name of the website? I would love to do this with my kiddos! They would be flipping out…excited! LOVE!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  2. Carol Davis says

    Hi Alison! Thanks for stopping by! I have linked the website to the picture of the computer screen. Just click on it!

  3. Deidre's Action Research Adventure says

    I love this idea and I can imagine those little faces through this process. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Carol Davis says

    Thanks for visiting! We had a blast with roller coasters! Next week I'll be posting about catapults and electric circuits!