Who doesn’t have fun memories of a ride on a roller coaster? Now kids get to build it and experiment with it to learn some physics. When I showed this new K’Nex set to my 12 year-old friend he said, “That’s what I wanted for my birthday!” He was so excited that he took it home and built it right away. He loved the way the cars raced up and down the ramps and circled the loops. This set is part of K’nex’s Education , STEM Explorations models that include 3 experiments to perform on your finished build, to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math. The first experiment is designed to determine the relationship between mass of an object and the height above the ground at which it must be released in order to pass through a loop. Kids add paper clips, washers, etc to the coaster car to give it 4 different masses. They record data on mass of coaster car related to minimum height required for it to make it through the loop in a table. They are then asked to make predictions, test them and analyze their data. I love the questions that probe and require critical thinking, analysis, explanation, and comparisons–all language skills required for advanced thinking. Finally they must draw a bar graph comparing the masses of the coaster cars and heights they attained and describe any pattern you see. K’Nex has just added deeper learning in an already fun, technical build-and-toy to play with. Teachers and principals would be wise to add these sets to their “Maker Spaces” for smart, challenging play.
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Erika O. Cardamone, MS, CCC-SLP