STEM Exploration Station: Ramps

Exploration Station rampThis exploration station is set up to explore ramps and friction. I took a wide divider that goes to our big book display case and hotglued a piece of cardboard to it. Then I added different textures to the cardboard. The first row I left blank as a control. The next row I glued cardboard stars that I had laying around to create a bumpy, oddly textured path. Next to that was felt for a relatively smooth, but still rougher than plain cardboard, row. On the last row I used the glue gun to create a series of ridges for an extremely bumpy, uneven ride. Lastly I tied a string to a Little People car, reinforced with the hot glue, and attached it to the back of the ramp. When I originally conceived of the ramp station I had intended to provide four different cars, one for each path. But when I ran a Science Storytime about ramps I found that the children were quick to attribute different speeds not to the ramp conditions but rather to the specific type of car was being used. I didn’t want to confuse the issue, especially since many children explore these stations on their own and wouldn’t have an adult to help facilitate a more accurate understanding, so I only used one car.

Because preschool science is more about observation than making predictions, my signage suggested touching each path and noticing what was different about each one, then testing to see which path was the fastest. Parents may want to help children draw further conclusions from those two pieces of information.

I purposefully did not permanently attach the ramp, instead I left various materials so that children could adjust the height of the ramp. A small sign encouraged them to do so and see what effect that would have on the speed of the car. I tied a simple stopwatch to the leg of the table for children to use to time the car. I haven’t seen anyone actually using the stopwatch for this purpose, but I have seen them generally playing with the stopwatch and figuring out how to use it, which is still learning about technology.

A lot of parents seem to be interested in this particular exploration station alongside the children.


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