TITLE: DOWNHILL DISCOVERIES AUTHOR: Marty Stallings, Orvis Risner Elementary School, Edmond, OK GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT: 5TH - 8TH Grades; Science and Math. OVERVIEW: The popularity of the recent Winter Olympics afforded an excellent opportunity to relate certain competitive events to the teaching of such physical properties as potential and kinetic energy, friction, drag, and acceleration. Through student made sloping tracks and selected course variables, students were involved in hands-on activities to determine how course conditions affect bobsled, luge, and downhill ski races. PURPOSE: To help students understand physical properties such as kinetic and potential energy, friction, drag, slope, and acceleration . It is also important to be able to relate these properties to everyday experiences. OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to: 1. Explain the difference between potential and kinetic energy. 2. Demonstrate, using graphical analysis, how different variables affect the same mass. 3. Demonstrate, using graphical analysis, how slope angle affects distance the same mass travels. 4. Identify considerations that are made to determine optimum downhill racing conditions. 5. Relate basic physical properties to everyday situations. 6. Identify that learning is relevant. RESOURCES/MATERIALS: Cardboard, tape, small fan, water, salt, cornstarch, butter, centimeter tape measure, a carpenter's square (this is large enough to measure slope angle easily), aluminum foil, waxed paper, clay, checkers, pencil, and graph paper. ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES: l. Cut five strips of aluminum foil or waxed paper 30 centimeters (about l2 inches) long and 6 centimeters (about 2 inches) wide. 2. Tape them on the top to a piece of rigid cardboard (one long side of an appliance (refrigerator) box works well). Be sure to smooth out foil or paper as you tape at the top. (Don't tape the bottom of the strip as this will alter your results.) 3. On strip l, sprinkle salt and water; strip 2, put on cornstarch; strip 3, water only. Spread a thin coat of butter on strip 4. Have a fan ready to blow on strip 5. 4. Prop the cardboard up at a 45 degree angle. 5. Review the idea that potential energy is stored energy(the sled or skier at the top) and kinetic energy is energy of mass and motion (the sled or skier going downhill). Talk about the forces that slow a sled or skier down--drag against the air and friction against the ground. 6. Divide the class into 5 teams. Have someone from each team hold a checker at the top of a different strip. At your command, they all let go of their checker. 7. Each team is to measure in centimeters and record the distance their checker traveled. 8. Have each team rotate strips until they have completed all 5 strips. 9. Teams will then record their results on graph paper using a bar graph. 10. Allow each team to make their own tracks and strips to allow experimentation with different angles of slope, more or less substance on strips and possible weight increases using clay. 11. Record on graph paper results using different variables designed by the 5 teams. TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: Have each team share results of their variables and track designs with the total group. Upon completion of group activities, children should summarize results using physical variables such as friction, acceleration, and mass in relation to distance and speed traveled. The children will then be able to apply knowledge learned to considerations the Olympic Committee must make in the selection of appropriate slopes as well as the aerodynamics of the bobsled, luge, and skiers themselves.
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