5th graders ‘coast’ into scientific calculations


By Dawn Hatfield

ARCANUM — Physics is a walk in the park, the amusement park, for students in Mrs. Cindy Dickman’s fifth-grade science classes. In November, the students brought Ohio’s fifth-grade science learning standards of force, motion, and speed calculation to life in an incredible hands-on activity. They designed and built their own roller coasters!

Dickman explained the roller coaster lab project guidelines, “Students worked together in teams to design and create a roller coaster out of foam pipe insulation. They used three pieces of pipe insulation that gave their roller coaster a length of 5.49 meters (18 feet). They were challenged to create a roller coaster with an initial hill, one additional hill, and a complete loop that a marble could travel the entire length of. Once they had a successful roller coaster, they timed their runs three times and then calculated the speed of their roller coaster using the formula for speed (s=d/t).”

When asked about the origins of this unique project, Dickman replied, “I have been using the roller coaster lab in class for several years now. The lesson is one that I adapted from a NASA workshop that I attended.”

Photos taken during the coaster lab evidence the students’ determination and success. Student Julia Arbogast responded, “I loved that it was a challenge.”

Dickman emphasized her student’s sentiment, “The students are always excited to build the roller coasters in class. It’s not quite as easy as it may sound. Students quickly realize that they need to make lots of adjustments to the hills and the loop to keep the marble from flying off the track. They are always so excited when they finally have a successful run!”

Another student, Anna’le Knopp, reported on her favorite part of the activity, “I loved the part where we were testing it out and designing it.”

Rylee Judy and Colton Clevenger both loved the building stage most.

Katrina Baker was proud of her group’s end result, “This lab is one of my favorites because we actually made our marble run down the loops, and it was the best.”

Additional photos and videos of the students’ roller coasters are available on Arcanum Middle School’s Facebook page.

Dawn Hatfield covers education stories for The Daily Advocate. Have a school-related event to share? Reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-0066.

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