Balls and Ramps

Engage, explore, reflect!

This week I used the PEEP science curriculum to bring another challenge to our balls and ramps exploration. During our “engage” conversation, I asked a few new questions that I hoped would propel the children deeper into their investigations. Imagine you have two ramps at different inclines. If you used the same ball on each ramp would there be any difference in the way it rolled? Would one roll faster? Would one roll farther? Upon hearing my proposal, the children began to make their guesses.

I know. The higher ramp will make the ball go faster, Alexia announced, but the lower ramp will make it go farther. Why do you think so? Because balls speed up from higher up. And the lower ramp slows balls down so it rolls longer and goes farther. Some children had different answers.  The lower ramp makes balls faster because it is closer to the ground, Jonathan supposed.

I also speculated aloud about the qualities of the balls. Do heavier balls roll faster? Do larger or smaller balls roll farther? What about the materials? Plastic, rubber, leather, hollow, solid—do any of these attributes change how the ball rolls? I wanted to make sure to stimulate the curiosity of each one of the children. Jaidin said, Hard balls with no air inside roll best. They go faster and farther. He spoke confidently although he was not able to explain why he thought so.

I invited the children to explore these ideas over a period of three days. I let them know I was available to help them if needed. I would be taking pictures and videos for them to review later during our “reflect” conversations. I urged them to use chart paper to draw their observations. During this time, I found the ramp area was never without at least one or two children fully engaged in exploration.

I asked them to keep in mind that we needed a question for next week’s focused exploration.

There were a few spontaneous discoveries that were very exciting. Alexia endeavored to get a ball to go UP a ramp. She and Xavier worked dilligently with a variety of balls and ramp positions until finally…triumph! The following quick video reveals their delight.

Another noteworthy find: Carmen learned, balls roll better on the  floor than they do on the carpet. She was learning about the effect of texture on the motion of an object.

Building Trackways, another activity in the PEEP curriculum, was very popular. Angel was especially fond of his “bridge ramp”.

At the end of the week, we gathered to review our data, photographs, and drawings. This was an opportunity for the children to show what they had discovered. It was very helpful to have the visuals to reflect on. Children remembered how they made their ramps, which balls they used and the results of their trials. They used this knowledge to construct theories. In the photo below, Chenniel explains that balls sometimes stop on straight tracks. If it’s not tilted a little, the ball won’t roll.


After some dialogue, the children decided on our focused exploration question. Check out next week’s blog to find out “Which ball travels the farthest?”


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