Roller Coasters

Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



There are two parts to this lesson from the book More Picture Perfect Science Lessons. In the first part learners explore ways to change the speed and direction of a rolling object by building roller coasters out of pipe insulation after reading the book, Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee. In the second part students read I Fall Down by Vicki Cobb and then investigate the idea that gravity affects all objects equally by conducting dropping races with everyday items.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Kindergarten
  • Early Elementary
  • Elementary School
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

K-PS2-1 Plan and conduct an investigation to compare the effects of different strengths or different directions of pushes and pulls on the motion of an object

Clarification Statement: Examples of pushes or pulls could include a string attached to an object being pulled, a person pushing an object, a person stopping a rolling ball, and two objects colliding and pushing on each other.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to different relative strengths or different directions, but not both at the same time. Assessment does not include non-contact pushes or pulls such as those produced by magnets.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Give kindergarten students lots of time to investigate with the roller coasters and dropping races.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The dropping races are a good introduction to pulls and gravity, but it is a concept that young students will not fully grasp yet.The falling objects quiz should not be used with them. Asking them to describe and draw their observations is a more appropriate way to assess their learning about a pull/ gravity.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
To further the students learning about pulls and gravity, do the Inquiry Place activities listed in the lesson.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
By doing multiple observations of the roller coaster and dropping races, patterns will be observed and can help describe phenomena, and used as evidence.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Grade-appropriate elements of the Science and Engineering Practice(s), Disciplinary Core Idea(s), and Crosscutting Concept(s), work together to support students in three-dimensional learning to make sense of phenomena and/or to design solutions to problems.

  • Instructional Supports: Engages students in authentic and meaningful scenarios that reflect the Practice of Science and Engineering as experienced in the real world and that provide students with a purpose (e.g., making sense of phenomena and/or designing solutions to problems). Develops deeper understanding of the practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts by identifying and building on students’ prior knowledge. Provides opportunities for students to express, clarify, justify, interpret, and represent their ideas and respond to peer and teacher feedback orally and/or in written form as appropriate to support student’s three-dimensional learning.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Elicits direct, observable evidence of three-dimensional learning by students using Practices with Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts to make sense of phenomena and/or to design solutions. Formative assessments of three-dimensional learning are embedded throughout the instruction.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -