Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center 
Science


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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