Exploring ramps and speed

A few months back, Wintergreen Learning Materials sent me a new product that they thought would be of interest to my students...
These rubber and wooden ramps, stands, plastic connectors and various balls by Kodo Kids sparked a lot of interest!  I just left them out near our building blocks, using the carpet as a large space for the children to explore.
Look at what happened next!

The children began exploring just how long the rubber ramp was (25 ft!). They were amazed at how long it stretched across our room!
Instantly they knew that they wanted the various balls to rolls as fast as possible down the ramp so they raised the beginning of the ramp, and even began using other materials found in the classroom to elevate their project.

They experimented quite a bit with using the smaller pieces - stacking them, placing them side by side, and spacing them in different ways to see if the balls would move along faster.

Over the course of the next few weeks, more and more students had taken an interest in created a "very long roller coaster"!

A.M.:  This roller coaster is going through lots of tunnels!

J.M.:  I think we need to put something at the end to make it stop!
We began to research various roller coasters and how their tracks are designed.  We are very fortunate to have an amusement part so close by that many students could relate to the experience to themselves.

M.R.:  I know this roller coaster!  I see it when I drive sometimes!

J.F.:  My sister went on this roller coaster - not me, because it's only for big people.

Many of the children took an interest in creating the "roller coaster" with hills and bumps, like the various ones we researched.  They soon realised that this was more challenging than it looked!

A lot of conversations revolved around the fact that if the beginning of the roller coaster started higher, the balls would make it all the way to the end.

 M.M.:  It has to be very high so the ball can go faster!

Some students discussed which ball went the fastest and why...

S.P.:  The white ball (plastic golf ball with holes) goes the fastest!

Mrs. Albanese:  Why is that?

S.P.:  It has lots of holes in it that push the wind through!

J.F.:  Yah, and this white ball (regular golf ball) is heavy so it's slower.

Mrs. Albanese:  What about the brown ball (wood)?

S.P.:  It's medium speed.  It's faster than that ball (regular golf ball) but not as fast as this one (plastic golf ball with holes).

During the last few weeks of class, we experimented with the concept of speed - which ball really did go the fastest and why?
Some children set up a simple ramp and timed the various balls going down.  They used the wooden ramps for this.

Be sure to check out all the other amazing products from Kodo and Wintergreen Learning Materials!  This project could have kept going well into the summer had school not ended!  I can't wait to revisit these ramps next school year, possibly even take them outside and see if our theories change!

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