Mar 18, 2014

WonderWorks: Ramps + Textures

Exploring ramps was fun, let's try adding one extra element and see what happens!

Today's Topic: Friction (or Textured Ramps)
lengths of wooden cove molding
cardboard carpet tubes (optional)
things to slide down the ramps (balls, cars, marbles, blocks, etc.)
different textures to add to the ramps (foil, felt, fleece, foam sheets, burlap, silk, slate, sandpaper, etc.)

cover art Chicken chickens / Gorbachev, Valeri
cover art Tails / Van Fleet, Matthew
 What Kids Do:  Most kids just built ramps (and didn't mess with the texture):

some kids added texture at the end of their ramps:

a few added texture directly to their ramps, but mostly with some coaching from the adults:

one built a two-way ramp, then put the ball in the middle to see which direction it would roll:
some clever parents who were tired of chasing wayward balls tried adding bumpers to the ends of the super big ramps:

instead of changing the ramp, some tried alternative objects to send down the ramp (playdough balls, foil balls, wooden blocks...):

some tried racing them down two ramps at the same time:
some found that the cars didn't roll as well as expected and needed a bit of a push:

 and a few revisited past favorite engineering activities (catapults, for instance):
Adult Challenge of the week:  Don't tell your child their ideas are wrong (let them figure that out themselves, then come up with their own alternative solutions)

Hindsight Tip:  Since I'd already done ramps before as a class topic, I felt a bit obligated to throw in something different to change up the class.  What I learned was that kids were more than happy to explore the basic "ramp" concept all over again.  In fact, they'd probably be happy to roll balls down sloped tubes every week if that were the topic.  This is a good reminder to me to make sure that parents understand that the topics I introduce each week aren't meant to be exhaustive, but instead are hoped to spark further exploration at home.  What ramps do you have at your house?  What materials could you make a ramp from?  In the kitchen?  In the bathroom?  In the bedroom?  What ramps do you see out in the world?  One little girl told me about how they built a ramp out of snow this winter to roll a big snowball up that was too heavy to lift.  Brilliant connection to real life!  I love to hear stories like that!

Variations to try: 
If the weather is nice and there's a playground nearby, go play on the slides!

Related apps:
If your child likes to know how things work, you might want to try the Kids Discover: Simple Machines app.  It's mostly reading (not many interactive activities), so it might be best for slightly older children.

Although it's not an app (yet), here's a free online game that from the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry that features all the Simple Machines.   Enjoy!

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