US Explorer Paper Roller Coasters

Check out some of our Periscope Progress Videos:

Team Bond Coaster Progress

Team Cebulski Coaster Progress

Team Hudson Coaster Progress

Reflections of the Coaster Experience

After viewing, Most Likely to Succeed, a  documentary that toured Michigan last month that featured the importance of Project Based Learning, I was inspired to create a lesson to incorporate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) into the Early Explorers Report that was coming up for my 5th graders.  The idea was to use Paper Roller Coasters, something I had seen at the MACUL (Michigan Association of Computer Users and Learners) Conference Makerspace, and build a roller coaster that would reflect the life of an early explorer.  

To kick off the project, I showed videos of sample paper roller coasters and told the kids that they would be learning more about early explorers through research, creating written reports, and then transferring their knowledge to create Explorer Coasters. After weeks of research and writing, the coasters were ready to be designed.  Students were required to include at least 5 purposeful elements in their coaster to represent aspects of the explorer’s life.

“I usually don’t think writing reports is fun, but when Mrs. Bond told us we would be making roller coasters, it made the report more fun to do,” said 5th grade student Jordan Petrovski.

As I watched students work, I noticed kids persevering with their building, as the cardstock templates were sometimes tricky to construct. I also overheard conversations of kids talking about how proud they were of their work and engaged in conversations about problem solving, the importance of having plans, following manual directions, and teamwork!  

Building soft-skills is very important to me. I once heard that, "Technical skills will get you hired, soft-skills will get you fired," and I want to make sure I am building the whole-child, preparing them for life...not just a grade point average or a good score on a standardized test. I also know how important careers in STEAM are becoming, and through this project, I was able to expose them to careers in architecture, construction, civil engineering, and roller coaster design!

Again, to see examples of what the construction time looks like in the classroom, you can view videos at Below are reflections from the classes on the experience. Enjoy!

Team Hudson Reflections

Team Bond Reflections

Team Cebulski Reflections