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Amusement Park

Everyone builds a different ride or game; then try them all out!  


  • ramp materials and balls of children’s choice
    • flat pieces of cardboard, foam core, and/or wood
    • cardboard tubes of different lengths—paper towel, toilet paper, wrapping paper, mailing tubes; cut some of the tubes horizontally to form open troughs
    • foam pipe insulation is ideal (1-inch diameter works well for large marbles), which can be found in hardware stores; these can be cut in half to make open troughs
    • wide, flexible hoses from shop vacs or sump pumps (look for these in the plumbing section of hardware stores)
    • PVC pipe, pieces of gutter, wooden trim (the ones with a trough in the middle keep balls nicely in the track!)
  • masking tape
  • scissors
  • various props: boxes, books, chairs, buckets, cups
  • paper cups or plastic bowls
  • camera or video camera

Key Science Concepts

  • A rolling object will move faster down a steeper incline and slower down a less steep incline.


Encourage children to use terms such as roll, bounce, bump, steeper, less steep, flat, steady, wobbly, flexible, and swerve, and science process words such as observe, predict, test, record, plan, design, compare, same, different, problem, solve, solution, and change.


Tell children that each of them will plan and design a ride or game that they will then build themselves.

  1. Pass out paper and have children draw a design of what they’d like to build. Some ideas for the amusement park might include:
    • a ramp race
    • a bowling game
    • ramps with funny or strange surfaces
    • ramps with lots of obstacles
    • ramps with tunnels or turns
    • a roller coaster
    • ramps with zigzags
    • ramps with jumps
    • a long ramp that uses a flat ramp, a cardboard tube, and a flexible tube
    • a game or ride of their own invention
  1. Have children gather the material they’ll need for building.
  2. Have them build, changing or revising their original plan if they want.

Share and Reflect

Go around the room, inviting each child to talk about their creation and demonstrate how it works. Suggest that they talk about:

  • What are the steepest parts? What does the steepness do to the balls going down it?
  • Are there obstacles? What do the obstacles do?  
  • Which ramps have lots of turns?
  • Which ones have different textures or surfaces?

Encourage the other children to ask questions. Take photos or videotape the children and their activities—you might ask children to give their creations names.  When parents or guardians pick up the children, you might have each child give a tour of the amusement park. Encourage the adults to ask them questions.