3/29/14 Hillcrest students make roller coasters on year’s last early-release day
Sam Roberts / Times-News
Hillcrest students make roller coasters on year’s last early-release day
By Isaac Groves The Times-News 3/29/14
Reprinted with permission.
It was a short day at Hillcrest Elementary School on Friday, and students took it fast.
Kindergartners through fifth-graders spent the day making roller coasters for marbles from plastic tubing and tape.
It was an hour-long competition to build the next thrill ride for the fictional Land of Thrills amusement park. The kids really went for it, Principal Julie Bethea said.
“I told them, ‘I would not ride in their roller coaster,’” Bethea said. “The kids said, ‘But there are roller coasters that actually do this.’”
This was the fourth, and last, engineering day of the year at Hillcrest. Students take on an engineering project on every early-release day on the school calendar.
“I’m sure the kids would agree this one was about the best,” Bethea said.
Like the previous engineering days, all the grades had the same basic challenge, but the specifics got more complicated for the older students.
The younger students got points for every inch their marble traveled and every hill it went over. Older students got points for adding corkscrews and loops. The oldest students also got points for the fastest roller coasters.
Some of the younger kids got into loops, but the older students incorporated some jumps and corkscrews Bethea said she had not imagined.
Teachers also were learning what worked and what did not. Earlier projects like the pasta car presented some materials problems. Pasta breaks. But the tubing, Bethea said, was great to work with. It was fl exible and strong, so students did not get frustrated trying to change their designs.
Bethea said the halls Friday were filled with just the right flavor of chaos, and the shouts were just the right tone.
“It was great to see how they were modifying things to see what would work and what would not work,” Bethea said. “As soon as something worked for the kids, you could hear the screams.”
The whole thing was the brain child of science teacher Mary Strickland, Bethea said, and took some preparation.
Roller coasters are a popular STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) project, but mostly for middle-school students. Strickland also had to make it all fi t into a couple hours of class time. So, Bethea said, all the teachers helped get students ready through the week.
Bethea said she could see the lessons on force and motion coming through.
After school, Strickland pumped the other teachers for their ideas about what worked best. She will have to come up with ideas for next year, Bethea said.