We had so much fun creating these! STEM activities have become very popular in schools and in homes recently. As a mom and teacher, I have absolutely jumped on the bandwagon. A STEM activity is an activity that involves Science Technology Engineering and/or math.
A STEM activity is hands-on and learning experience. One of the things that I love about STEM activities is that there is often more than one solution which allows children to explore, design and solve the STEM activity in a way that makes sense to them.
After years of doing STEM activities for kindergarten and older grades, I can honestly say that there has never been a STEM activity that I have done with children that I have not been impressed or surprised by the creativity, imagination and problem solving that children are capable of – when given the opportunity!
Since I am a teacher and I am work with many classes each day, I am always looking for STEM activities that are inexpensive and low prep. This STEM paper roller coaster activity is both!
One of our kindergarten classes have been learning about roller coasters and movement. So, I wanted to incorporate this learning into a STEM activity. I decided to give children a chance to design and create their own paper roller coaster.
As children designed and planned their idea, they worked on their architectural skills. As they began to build and create, they became engineers.
This STEM activity was a great hands-on way to explore these skills.
The materials are really simple and if you are around kids, you likely already have the materials on hand.
- Construction Paper
We started by watching a short video of a roller coaster ride and talking about roller coasters and their favourite things about roller coasters.
Do you like when you go upside down? Do you like when it is bumpy and you go up and down and do you like big drops?
Many children had been on a roller coaster before, but some had not experienced what it felt like or looked like. Once everyone had seen a roller coaster, they were very excited to create their own!
The STEM Roller Coaster Challenge
I started by challenging everyone to design and create their own paper roller coaster. From these simple instructions everyone could use their imagination to create the roller coaster of their dreams!
I started by giving each child one large sheet of construction paper that was not cut up. This serves as the base to hold the roller coaster. I also cut up a bunch of strips of paper for children to use for the actual roller coaster.
I laid out the construction paper and other materials and simply allowed children to use whatever they needed. They could cut and draw on the paper to create however they wished.
The excitement in the room was amazing. Children were talking about each of the features of their paper roller coaster and keen to show their friends the different parts as they created.
Children used long pieces of paper to create ramps that went up and down. They twisted their strips of paper to create parts on the roller coaster to go upside down.
I loved walking around and asking children about their roller coaster because there were often details that I did not notice that they had taken time to add.
Next, children began drawing lines or markings on the strips of paper. This detail added a great deal to the roller coasters visually. Children added flips, curves, turns as they connected each strip to the last.
The imagination and creativity of children is one of my favourite parts of my job.
For this STEM activity, children had just over half an hour to create, however, they could have created for much longer. This is the bonus if you are doing this activity at home, or as a centre in a classroom.
Some children may show a great interest in the activity and create for hours.
One of the great thing about this project is that you only need construction paper, glue, scissors and markers. When working with large groups of children, using inexpensive materials is ideal.
I also love when kids create with simple open-ended materials.
I had over 100 children do this STEM activity and every single paper roller coaster was different. It was truly a chance for kids to create something from their imagination. There was no one design they had to follow.
In the end, everyone was left with a twisty roller coaster of their own that they were excited to take home and tell all about.
Since my students loved this activity and it was so popular, I added a bit to it for the following day. I had some small cars that I gave to children so that they could go actually pretend to go through their roller coaster track.
If you don’t have enough cars to give to everyone, you can also simply print off a few pictures from online to use. This also gives children a great opportunity to show their creation to friends and parents.
When we were done showing and playing with our roller coasters, we posted them in the hall at school. Imagine 30 roller coasters proudly displayed on the wall. The bulletin board looks really interesting and attention grabbing since it is 3D and seems to pop off the wall!
This is a really simple STEM activity to start with if you have not done STEM activities before.
The amount of learning and pure excitement that happens in the room with activities like these make them some of my favourites.
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Looking for More Hands-On Activities?
If you liked this STEM roller coaster project, you’ll love my collection of over 45 STEM building challenges!
Try out some more activities that kids can do at home or in the classroom. Including science experiments and DIY escape rooms. Printable products are also available so that you can print and go!