Thursday, January 24, 2013

LAB: It's a Roller Coaster kinda World ...

It definitely was in my classroom today.  We built roller coasters to demonstrate our knowledge of potential and kinetic energy in science.
I teach science using the 5 E's (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate)'s perfect if I actually got to teach science each and everyday, but I don't.  I have to use an A/B schedule to teach science and social studies, but I can usually get all the E's done by the end of the week. 
Here is what this lesson looked like... I'll include a few videos and pics of their awesome work throughout. 
Engage:  I showed my kids one of these awesome things...Newton Balls.  Don't we all have one stashed somewhere in the house?

We observed its stillness and I said that it had potential energy.  Then we discussed what potential meant.  I told them that I know they have heard that word before, "You have all the potential in the world to make straight A's."  After a little prodding, they decided it meant ability.  I was proud of that word...ability.  How can I increase its potential? (move the ball on the end)  You get the point....
Then we drew it in our journal and took some notes. (KWL chart and definitions)

Explore:  Then I showed them this little video about potential and kinetic energy conversion on a roller coaster.  We drew it in our journal, colored our coaster where it showed potential and kinetic energy, and they had to write a paragraph explaining how potential and kinetic energy are related on the roller coaster.

Explain:  Reading.  Sometimes it's dreaded, but not really in my class.  I think this is for 2 reasons. 
1-- The textbook we use, Gateways to Science, does not ramble or give endless amounts of over information.  It tells exactly what the kids need to know at their level  2-- The students know that this is not the main way we learn science.  We learn by doing and reinforce with reading.   They answered a couple of questions in their journal explaining how when a cat jumps off the refrigerator the energy transforms.

Elaborate:  My favorite part of the day! I told the kids they were going to make 2 different roller coasters.  The first had to have 2 hills and the second had to have a loop and a hill.  They had to use about 5 feet of clear plastic tubing (find at Lowes) and masking tape to make their roller coaster.  They would use a BB (find at Walmart) as the coaster and it would have to make it through the tube to the end. 


Loads of trial and error, readjusting and learning as they built.  Loved it.  Check out our video from one of my groups today :)

Evaluate:  Usually falls on a Friday... which is fine with me... Fridays are usually my quiz days.  Yes I teach 6th grade and still have Friday test days.  I'm sorry,but I just find this easier.  I like starting new units/lessons on Mondays and having 2 extra days to grade without the constant "Have you graded my quiz yet?" banter.  Ummm do they realize that I don't live at the school and I have a life... or rather...try to have a life outside of the classroom???  No.... the answer to this rhetorical question is no... if they did realize, they wouldn't look at you crazily when they spot you in Walmart.

 Have fun riding roller coaster without paying the theme park price :)


  1. I am finding all kinds of goodies on your blog today! Hooray for blog stalking! Thanks again for sharing your stuff. This is exactly what I needed. Do you have a TpT store where I could get your foldable sheets that you used for the What is Energy labs? I would love to have those!!

  2. I am SO using this idea...I have tried to tape mine to the wall... epic fail!