Month: March 2017

Spring Break Stay-cation – 5 Places to Visit with Toddlers Without Leaving Your Town

We finally made it to spring break! It always feels like an accomplishment to make it to spring break, doesn’t it? I mean, those winter months are tough. At school indoor recesses for cold, rainy, windy or who knows what kind of weather make you bonkers. The kids can’t play outside quite as much. It’s dark and dreary. Kids get very antsy too! My middle schoolers were either at each other’s throats or couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. I don’t know which is worse! Everyone just needs some space for a few days.

But now, spring break! I wish I could say I spent most of the week relaxing in the sun at some tropical beach location. Nope. Not when that would require a 12 hour plus drive (or way more with two young kids in the car) or paying for expensive air fare. So instead, we drove north 5 hours (which took more like 7 because of said two kids) and visited family in Michigan for a nice weekend before spending most of the week at home.

Staying home for the week is not a bad thing in my mind. There are always things to catch up on (like laundry… except whenever I do catch up, an hour later there is more to be done! How does that even happen?!). But spring break isn’t for more work. It is to take a break, even if you can’t lay on a beach. Instead of trying to catch up on everything, have a “stay-cation”. Do at least something different for your break.

When you have kids, especially toddlers and babies, “break” is rarely in your vocabulary. A break means going to the bathroom by yourself or sneaking chocolate from the pantry without your son spying you and insisting on getting some too. (Have you seen this video? So true!) Or maybe if you are really lucky, getting your husband to watch the kids for a couple hours while you go to Target.

Since I can stay home this week, I truly enjoy spending time with the kiddos doing normal things before the end of the year chaos ensues at school. I don’t mind not having as many breaks. But making a few interesting and different trips here and there make the stay-cation more fun and help create memories for a long time! Naps and feeding times can cause complications with scheduling, so I’ve made a list of five places you can visit with your littles that are easy, can be quick, are fun AND affordable!

Five Places to Visit With Toddlers Without Leaving Your Town

  1. Library story times and events

    Check your local library for their schedules. Most have programs available for children of all ages. We regularly attend an evening story time for toddlers at ours, but I know there are all sorts activities going on throughout the week. There may be special activities just for spring break!

  2. Get ice cream at the local shop

    For it to really be spring break, at least one ice cream trip is in order. Make it special by going to a place that you may not visit that frequently. We love the build your own fro-yo places. With all those topping options, everybody gets what they like!

  3. Visit a fire stations, police stations, etc.

    Our family has not done this yet, but we would like to. Our boy loves fire trucks, so making a visit to a station would be a blast. Check your city’s website for more information and how to schedule possible tours.

  4. Go to a pet store

    This one may seem a little odd, but our kids love it! Our son often asks to go to the “Fish Store”. He loves watching birds dart around, mice run on their wheels, and spot all the variety of fish. We don’t own any animals at our house (and don’t plan to) but it’s fun to just look!

  5. Check out a new park or playground

    We encourage playing outside as much as possible (when whether permits) so trips to the park occur often in warmer weather. Take a drive to find a park the kids have never been on before and watch them explore! Our mall even has a play area inside. I’ve taken the kids there on crummy weather days. Because we don’t go there often, even the tiny slides are a big hit!

A stay-cation does not need to be boring or mean you have to stay home all week. Find something new to do that the whole family will enjoy, without even leaving your town! Slow down, relax, and take pictures. And when the kids are napping, find that spot on the floor where the sun is shining. Lay there for a few minutes, basking in the warmth, and pretend you can hear the waves rolling in.

Happy spring break!

Trashketball – A Great Review Game for Any Subject!

A trash can, paper, and review questions are the only things you need to make “Trashketball” work!

It’s March Madness season. Anyone else get into this time of year? I love filling out my bracket in the hopes of predicting the most correct, and then quickly become disappointed when my teams lose. But that is the greatness of the tournament!

Both teachers and students get very into the games here at our Indiana school. Our PE teacher randomly assigns each class to a few teams in the tournament. If that time wins the whole thing, the class gets to do a special activity of their choosing. The teachers are in a pool where the winner gets a gift card (or maybe even their recess duties covered for a week!) I let the my middle school students fill out one and the top 5 or so overall get to have ice cream sundaes after lunch one day. It definitely makes watching the tournament a fun experience!

Teachers have also been incorporating basketball into their curriculum as well. A 5th grade teacher did an inquiry lab on how the angle of the backboard affects your shot percentage. Another teacher in the lower grades has a bulletin board set up in the hallway about Indiana basketball history. What a fun way to connect students to content!

Because spring break was fast approaching, I needed some review games. Often I will use Kahoot (which kids love!) but I was inspired by some crazy basketball games over the weekend to do something different. Trashketball was a game from my own middle school memories and I was super excited to bring it back to my classroom!

All you need to do this review game is the following:
  • A set of questions that can be answered in a few words (or numbers)
  • A trashcan
  • A bunch of slips of paper

I used this for my math class, so I copied down a bunch of problems that I could project on the screen. Students had calculators and scratch paper to help them.

To set up the game:
  1. Prepare questions to give to students. The best way to do this is to have questions ready to display somewhere that all students can see at once.
  2. Cut up paper into small squares. Have a lot of paper ready (you can always use the extras for next time!)
  3. Place a trash can (I use a smaller can) in the middle of the room, and students place their desks or chairs in a circle around the can. It is up to you how far students are from the can. Farther away makes the game a little more challenging! Make sure students sit equal distance from the can and no one has a huge advantage.
Here is how to play the game:
  1. Students see a problem on the screen and have time to figure out the answer (depending on the question, I gave them between 30 seconds and 1 minute) and write their answer on a slip of paper with their name on it.
  2. Once the time was up, I would tell the students, “Shoot!”During this time, students would crumple up their slips of paper into mini “basketballs” and shoot their answers into the can.
    1. Students may NOT stand up or move around during this time. I told them their “bums” needed to stay in the seats!
  3. I gave 30 seconds for students to “shoot” their answers. There are two ways to do this:
    1. Students can shoot as many slips of paper with their answers on it as they can in that 30 seconds
    2. Students can shoot up to a certain amount (like 3) in a round.
  4. When shooting time is over, the teacher grabs the can and looks through all the papers that actually made it in. Any correct answer receives one point. Incorrect answers get zero points.
  5. Students keep track of their own points and whoever has the most at the end wins!

There are other versions of this game out on Pinterest. Here is a link to another version that sounds great too!  Mrs. E Teaches Math has great ideas, so be sure to check out the rest of the blog.

Students loved the game and already have requested to play it again! It was fun, engaging, and helped students review how to do their math problems! It does create a little craziness in the classroom, but hey, it’s March Madness!

Digestive System Mini Lessons – Part 2

Here is the Digestive System Mini Lessons – Part 2 post! There are three more simulations for parts of the digestive system. If you missed the first post on this, be sure to check it out by clicking here.

Sweet Teeth

This activity demonstrates how your teeth help in the digestive process. Students receive a sugar cube as well as a small cup of granulated sugar. They fill two cups with equal amounts of warm water, placing the sugar cube in one cup and the granulated sugar in the other. Students stir each cup and watch how the sugar dissolves. The granulated sugar dissolves much more quickly than the cube, just like your teeth break up food into smaller pieces so it is easier to break down the food later.

A student stirs a cup with granulated sugar and compares it to another that has sugar cubes.
Materials needed:

2 clear cups

Water

Sugar cubes

Granulated sugar

Stirring sticks

 

Surface Area Matters – How the Villi Help the Small Intestines


Villi help absorb as many nutrients as possible. To demonstrate this, students take four cups of water and fill each with the same amount. For the first cup, students take one sheet of paper towel, fold it several times, and dip into one of the cups to absorb the water. Then students take a graduated cylinder and measure whatever water is left in the cup that the towel didn’t absorb. Students repeat this using two paper towels folded together, three paper towels, and four paper towels. The four paper towels folded together should absorb the most water, leaving the least amount behind in the cup.  Often, I follow up on this by asking, “What would happen if there weren’t as many villi to absorb nutrients?” Students agree that some nutrients may be missed! This always reminds me of the Chocolate Factory clip from I Love Lucy – without enough villi, the intestines would be like Ethel and Lucy and miss a lot of good stuff!

Materials needed:

Four cups

Water

Paper towel (9 sheets)

Graduated cylinder

 

Let the Juices Flow!

Using orange juice, students see first hand how the acids in our stomachs help break down foods. Bread is torn into small pieces and placed into ziploc bags. Then they pour some orange juice into the bag. Make sure the bags are sealed (otherwise it gets messy!) and squish the bread around. The bread looks gross, but starts to dissolve before your eyes! Students carefully pour the liquid out, leaving behind the solid “waste”, which is then disposed of in the garbage can! This activity simulates several parts of the digestive system, but especially highlights the large intestines’ job.

The “stomach acids” at work.
The “solid waste” leftover. Gross!
Materials needed:

Ziploc bags

Bread

Orange juice (or another type of fruit juice)

Waste container or sink to empty juice into

 

I do have short worksheets for all of these activities. Students fill them out to help instruct and guide them throughout the lesson. Please comment or email if you would like to have them!

While students participate in their activities, I like to walk around and ask questions, clarify instructions or just listen to how students explain things to each other.  It is awesome to see students making the connections and teaching each other!

Please use these ideas in your own classroom, either in groups like I did, or even as full class demonstrations! Have fun digesting!

Digestive System Mini Lessons Part 1

Studying the human body creates excitement in my 7th grade classroom. One of the best systems to study (in my opinion) is the digestive system. I mean, we get to talk about food and taste and eating. Students enjoy the system too, because this means I will probably bring in some sort of snack to help us learn about the system in real time!

Really, we could spend weeks talking about one system in the body. However, in my class, we only have 2-3 days before we must move on. I love doing hands on activities with my students, and found several digestive simulations that I wanted to try. The simulations only take a few minutes each, so I decided to divide them up among the students.

Each group focused on one particular area of the digestive system and performed the activity as instructed. Activity sheets were filled out, and each group became responsible for understanding how their activity connected to the digestive system.

Once all the groups completed the tasks, they had to share their findings with the rest of the class. Students gave mini presentations sharing what they did, what happened, and how it relates to the digestive system.

I described two of the mini lessons below, and will post three more soon!

 

Digestive System Length

Students use yarn to show the length of our digestive systems. I used 4 different colors so each color could be used to represent a different organ in the system. Students measured, cut, and tied the pieces together. At the end, they could see just how long our digestive tract really is!

Materials needed:

Yarn (4 colors if available)

Scissors

Meterstick

Use this chart for lengths:

Organ Length in Centimeters
Esophagus 25 cm
Stomach 20 cm
Small Intestine 700 cm
Large Intestine 150 cm
Total Length 895 cm

 

Quick Crackers

Students like this activity because it actually involves eating. Each person in the group receives two crackers. One cracker is chewed up really quickly and swallowed. Students state that their mouths get a little dry because not much saliva was used. Next, the second cracker is placed in each of their mouths. Students allow the cracker to sit for at least a minute without chewing (allowing the saliva to do all the work). The cracker does dissolve eventually and will taste sweet in the process. The crackers demonstrate how chemical digestion works in our bodies. The chemicals in our saliva start breaking down the crackers into the sugars needed.

Materials needed:

Crackers (at least 2 for each member of the group)

Timer/Clock

 

See more activity ideas in Part 2 of this post!

Puff Mobiles – A quick STEM activity.

It’s been a blustery few weeks here in Indiana. We have gone from a balmy February to a mild start to March, but as we approach spring break, it has been cold! All this up and down in temperatures has caused some extremely windy days. Like trees blowing over, branches falling, be careful when you go outside windy days! In fact, it is snowing today, but the forecast shows temps in the mid 50s in a few days. Welcome to Indiana.

On one of those days, after the wind was howling through the night, I decided to introduce Puff Mobiles to my elective class. This activity is easy to set up, and the students love it. Before introducing the activity, I do a brief overview of wind and wind power with my students. We discuss how wind generates electricity and the wind turbine (we have lots of these in our area!) We also recall how it was used for ships and boats as the first modes of transportation.

Then we get to the fun part–the Puff Mobile.

Goal:

Students must design a vehicle that uses wind power from their own mouths to puff or blow their creation to the finish!The wind background info isn’t completely necessary for this one (but I like to include it), and it doesn’t really have a prompt or standard that it aligns perfectly with. But it is fun, works on engineering concepts and is easy to implement!

There are relatively few supplies needed, which makes it easy to prepare on short notice!

Each student (or student group) receives the following materials:
  • 3 Straws
  • 2 Paper clips
  • 4 Peppermint Lifesavers
  • One sheet of paper
  • Tape (I limited the tape to about 50 cm so students don’t go crazy!)

Not all supplies must be used, but may no other supplies may be included.

Students get 3-4 minutes to plan out and sketch a design before actual construction. I do encourage students to stick as close to their sketch as possible. They are allowed to cut the straws and paper. Paper clips can be bent and twisted however students think necessary. Students can even color their paper if you have time! Construction takes anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes (depending on how much time you have!).

Once all was constructed, we set up a Puff Mobile tournament! We pushed the tables and chairs to the side of the room so we had a lot of open space down the middle. I drew brackets on the board (March Madness style) and pulled names out of a cup so students were randomly matched up. A start line and finish line are necessary, and the race can be as long or as short as you want!

Some rules we establish for the Puff Mobile Races:
  1. During racing, the vehicles must start and remain (as much as possible) on the ground. AKA – not paper airplanes.
  2. There is absolutely NO intentional moving, blowing, hitting, kicking, etc of another mobile in order to advance your own.
  3. As audience members, students may cheer and encourage, but may not touch or get in the way of anyone in the race.
  4. The teacher is the final judge. If mobiles somehow get stuck in the corner or turned, I can tell them to pick it up, turn it around or to “unstick” it.

I think it is hilarious watching the kids belly crawl across the floor, trying to puff their mobiles all the way across the finish line!

Kids have a blast, AND my floors are much cleaner after the races!

St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Crafts for Kids Round Up

St. Patrick’s Day is coming soon! When your last name is O’Shaughnessey, St. Paddy’s day is a big deal! I like to make corned beef and have Irish Soda bread, but take a pass on the Guinness… (my husband and I don’t really drink much).

This year, I want my busy boy to help celebrate. Leprechauns and rainbows can be fun ways to celebrate, but our clan loves shamrocks. My husband’s family tends to collect, display and even grow shamrocks. Shamrock’s can symbolize the Trinity, which makes it even more special. Therefore, I hunted down ideas that involved Shamrocks! (You’ll notice several of them have hand or footprints too…another favorite of mine!) Click on the titles to see instructions or pictures for the activities.

Hand print shamrock on canvas

Source unknown (If anyone does know, please let me know so I can link to the site!). 

The picture shows a four leaf clover, but you could do three hands for a shamrock. Paper, card stock or even fabric could be used instead of the canvas.

Fizzing Paint Shamrocks 

Source: Gift of Curiosity, giftofcuriosity.con

I love this idea! My son enjoys playing with baking soda and vinegar and watching the fizz (we call it playing “science”). This activity combines painting and fizzing! Also, if you don’t have pipettes handy, we have used extra syringes (leftover from old medicines) and they worked great!

Rainbow Watercolor Raised Salt Paint Shamrock

Source: Rhythms of Play, rhythmsofplay.com

Definitely would like to try salt painting in the future! A St. Patrick’s Day theme makes it even better! My middle school students would love to try this too!

 

Marshmallow Shamrock

Source: Pinterestedparent.stfi

Super quick and easy way to paint. Pretty sure my son would try and take a bite of the marshmallows though…

Kids Shamrock Footprint

Source: CraftyMorning.com

This website contains many other ideas for holiday crafts! Take a look around to see more great St. Paddy’s Day ideas.

Handprint Shamrock (or 4 leaf clovers)

Source: Preschool Ideas for 2 Year Olds at Terrific2s.blogspot.com

Another handprint clover or Shamrock example. Adding glitter always makes life for interesting!

Marble Painted Shamrock

Source: PlainVanillaMom.com

No need for a holiday to do this activity, but using a themed paper makes it even better. Grab some marbles, paint and a Ziploc container, and you are good to go!
There are many more activities out there that don’t require much prep and look fun! Spend a little time with your little (or big ones) this St. Patrick’s Day and create something to pull out every year!

Happy Homework Chart – How to encourage students to do their homework without grading every assignment

I currently teach five DIFFERENT classes everyday. I have three levels of science class and two levels of math. Five different preps in a seven period day. The other periods are not always free periods either. They are filled with recess and lunch duties, covering for study halls, IEP meetings, and all the other random stuff that pulls you away from the classroom and prepping for classes. Because of this, I don’t have a lot of extra time to spend on grading. I especially don’t have time to grade every single little assignments students have. Even with small class sizes (which I have this year), just grading math homework would take a lot of my “free” time. However, I assign math homework almost every day!

I think math is one of those classes, though, that students need to practice in order to understand what they learned. Often, we do not have enough time in our short class periods to get enough practice in. Therefore, students typically have math homework to take home and finish.

So then we have a dilemma! Students must complete their math homework, but most catch on quickly that they are not asked to turn it in everyday. When you teach middle school students, this is a recipe for disaster! In their minds, not turning something in = don’t have to do it. I needed a way to encourage students to complete their daily assignments without overloading myself with grading.

Enter the “Happy Homework Chart”. During my student teaching stint, a cooperating teacher did something similar to this and I loved the idea. It is a simple way to use positive peer pressure and encourage students to complete their assignments! 

How it works:
  1. At the beginning of every class, students are to take out their homework. While they are working on an intro question or warm up, I walk around the room and check for completion only.
  2. If ALL the students in the class have the assignment completed, we get two stickers on our chart! If only ONE student misses, I still give the students one sticker.
  3. Once students reach 20 stickers (fills one column), the entire class gets a reward!

I call it the Happy Homework Chart because I use happy face stickers. Pick whatever stickers that you like best! To make your own chart, use Excel or Word and create an empty table or chart with however many boxes you would like.

You can also choose whatever reward fits for you and your class. I actually have different “levels” of rewards for each quarter.

Level 1

If students get the first column completed in a semester, I bring in a snack (usually cookies, brownies, etc) sometime during the next week. Food is such a motivator! Just the idea of receiving a cookie gets these students motivated.

Level 2

A second completed column in a semester means I bring in a snack AND students get to play math games instead of a regular lesson.

Level 3

If students can manage to get one more column (or more) completed during a semester, I bring in a snack AND we do no math. Instead we watch a movie, play outside, or do something else fun to celebrate.

I was a little worried when I first introduced this because I thought I would have to bring in snacks every other week. However, there are very few days when every single student does their homework, even with this system. It typically takes about 4-5 weeks before we complete a column (sometimes more or less depending on if there is an assignment everyday or not), so it is definitely manageable. You can always adjust the amount of stickers needed to complete a column.

A Few Other Things to Keep in Mind:
  1. Sometimes students try to quickly fill in numbers right before I walk around to make it look like they finished it. Usually I can tell by looking at their homework if they did this, and if that occurs, no stickers are given, even if everyone else had it done… this usually discourages the problem from happening again any time soon.
  2. I don’t count absences as incompletes. If a student did not receive the assignment because they are absent, it doesn’t count against the class.
  3. Students sometimes have questions or are confused on one or two problems in an assignment. They occasionally don’t do those problems because we always review questions on the homework at the start of class. I often have to use good judgment if they simply did not understand, or if they just did not complete the homework and are trying to pull it off as “I didn’t get it!” I typically tell students to TRY and do something and not leave it blank.

This system has worked well for me, and most days students will at least get one sticker. A quick walk around the classroom takes little time and we can move on to questions. If I want students to hand in the homework, I collect the assignment after my walk through.

I know other teachers have many different methods for encouraging their students in their homework. If you have something that works well for you, I would love to hear it!

Happy Homeworking!

Triangle Coloring – Making beautiful artwork while classifying triangles!

Does anyone have one of those new coloring books that are totally cool? Filled with awesome designs, these books encourage you to just sit and color. In fact, studies suggest that coloring helps relieve stress and improve relaxation. I would agree. I like to sit and color while sitting on the couch or watching tv. Which is why I came up with this lesson for my students!

We are working through our geometry unit right now in both my seventh and eighth grade classes. Lots of angles, triangles and other polygons going on! I wanted to do something a little different than just a regular worksheet and take a break from our normal routine of class. I was browsing Pinterest (what else is new) and saw a picture of a whole bunch of shapes in different colors; shapes that could be used as artwork on walls. Immediately,an idea popped into my head! Math + art = awesome!

My seventh graders had just learned to classify triangles by their angles and sides. I decided to take triangles, and have students make them into cool designs while still practicing their classifying skills!

Triangle Coloring

Only a pencil, ruler, paper and colors were necessary for this activity.

Students drew lines across the page using their pencils and made several triangles. I warned students to not draw TOO many triangles because that might make way too much work for them later.

Next, students identified triangles on their page as scalene, isosceles or equilateral. They traced each type in a different color of their choosing, being sure to put their color choices on a key.

Finally, students shaded in each triangle according to the angles. Obtuse, acute and right triangles each received their own color. Colors used should also be recorded on the key.

The class loved the project. After I gave instructions, the class was quiet for several minutes, not because I told them to be, but because they were so focused on their triangles! Designs turned out really neat. I’m thinking a new bulletin board display is coming…!

Roller Coasters – Looking at Potential and Kinetic Energy

Who doesn’t like a roller coaster? Let me rephrase that… what middle schooler doesn’t like roller coasters? And if they don’t like riding them, I’m pretty sure they would still like the idea of building one!

This is one of my favorite activities of the year. It incorporates concepts of kinetic and potential energy, which is a big standard to cover in sixth grade, while engaging and challenging the students.

SLED Program

I definitely cannot take credit for coming up with this lesson. It was developed through the SLED program. (Science Learning Through Engineering Design) This program, funded by a grant through the NSTF, was a partnership between the SLED program directors and teachers of grades 3-6. Because the program was developed at Purdue University, many local school districts and teachers were able to be a part of developing these lessons. The focus was to increase science learning through engineering design. I worked with the SLED program and its amazing directors for several years and through it, added a bunch of awesome engineering-based projects that align perfectly to Indiana science standards. (Here   is more info if you want it!)

Before the Activity

Before starting the roller coasters, my students have learned/reviewed kinetic and potential energy. We do a lab where students “play” with wind up toys, mini circuits, bouncy balls and more, and trace how the energy is transferred in each situation.

I also LOVE showing them this video. It gets stuck in your head, so watch out! But then again, it will get stuck in students’ heads, which is fantastic!

I follow the SLED lesson plan, which you can find here

Designing the Roller Coasters

To introduce the activity to the students, we begin with the challenge: Indiana Beach wants to build a new roller coaster with a lot of loops, but wants to be as economical as possible. Can they help? Instantly, students are engaged. Indiana Beach? Roller Coasters? Hooked. However, we discuss several concepts before designing.

  • What’s the challenge? (To build a roller coaster with loops)
  • What is the goal? (The most loop diameter for a limited coast)
  • Who are we working for? (Indiana Beach)
  • What are somethings that might limit us? (Space, materials, TIME!)
  • What concepts in science have we been learning about that will help us here? (Kinetic and Potential energy!!!)
Materials used to build the coasters:
The tubing comes in packages like this. I find the 3/4″ works best.
  • Insulated pipe tubing. I use 3 ft sections cut in half. These make the “track” for our coaster. You can find them at any hardware store (Lowe’s, Home Depot) or online. You will have to cut them in half.
  • Duct tape
  • String
  • Tacks (longer tacks work better)
  • Large pieces of cardboard to secure the coasters on(think refrigerator, tv, large sporting equipment, etc. I had a connection to someone that worked in a bike shop and got several large boxes from him!

The tubing and cardboard can be reused, so you will not need to get all new supplies every year!

Once we review the materials and the goal, students get a few minutes to plan and sketch their designs individually. Next, I put them in groups of 3 (if necessary I make a group of two. Four students seems to be too many in this activity…) and together, they come up with ONE plan that they want to use for their roller coaster.

Each team gets a large cardboard piece which is propped up along the wall around my classroom. This is their roller coaster canvas. They may receive up to 5 pieces of “track” and unlimited amount of duct tape, string and tacks (although all come at a price!). Students typically need about 30 to 35 minutes to design and build their coasters (or really, that is all the time I can give them!). For the coaster, we use a marble. I do allow students to test their coasters as they go so they can make slight adjustments as needed.

While students are building:

I usually walk around during construction, asking questions such as:

  • Why did you need to make your second loop smaller than your first?
  • Why are you starting the marble so high?
  • I see that this loop isn’t working. What do you think the problem is?

Encourage students to think about kinetic and potential energy when responding!

 

Wrapping Up

Once time is up, student groups calculate their coaster’s final cost, measure the total loop diameter on the coaster, and calculate a team score. Team scores are the cost divided by the total loop diameter. Lower scores mean the coasters are more cost efficient or have a high loop diameter, which were the goals!

Finally, groups present and test their coasters in front of the class. We take a “roller coaster tour” and walk around the room. Students share their designs, their cost and their team score. Then the moment of truth… will the marble actually make it through the entire track!? I do give students several attempts, but usually there are a few groups that are unsuccessful, and that is ok! At each coaster, students put sticky notes on where they believe the most potential energy and the most kinetic energy are located–super helpful in reminding students  about these concepts!

Overall, this lesson takes me about three class periods. However, it solidifies students’ understanding on kinetic and potential energy. And it is fun! They will be talking about their coasters for weeks to come!