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Department of Physics, Lund university

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Using amusement parks for teaching

An amusement park can be seen as a large classroom, where you can experience the laws of physics throughout the body. As a preparation for the visit, you could ask the students to write questions, e.g. with the writing assignment: Imagine that you are in [the ... park]. You hear the sounds of the rides, and note the lovely smell of popcorn and candy floss. Choose a ride. Write a letter to the ride with questions about what you would like to know about the ride.

This introduction can make the visit a learning experience starting from the students own questions, and has been found to be a successful assignment for pupils/students from 10 years and up. The questions of often concern

  • How high?
  • How fast?
  • How old?
  • How many G's?
  • How many turns?
  • How far do you travel in [...]?
  • How does it work?
  • How would you move if [...] breaks?

Some of the questions may be answered before the the visit using the park web site, the roller coaster data base, google or this site.. Other questions could be investigated on site, using measuring tape, notebook, or using the phone for measurements, photos and videos. Groups of 4-6 students can be assigned a couple of rides for closer investigations and the presenting the results for the class after the visit. You may also select a few rides to be studied by the whole class. <p>

Read more in the article about Teacher roles in amusement parks and take a look at a list of things to pack for a day in the park.

First time with a class in an amusement park

If it is your first visit with a class to an amusement park, start by selecting 2-3 familiar rides for the whole class to look into, e.g. from this list, with rides found in most parks

  • Children's drop tower, e.g. Familien Frei Fall Turm with a small slinky 
  • TeaCup ride: Observe the motion, measure acceleration with a soft toy on a string
  • Small carousel: Let the toy on a string swing like a miniature Foucault pendulum. Observe
  • Wave Swinger / Chain flyer: Observe the angles for different swings, possibly bring small mug of water.
  • Large drop tower, with a small mug with max 1cm of water. Hold firm and observe the water.
  • Pendulum ride - experience/observe/measure forces in different parts of the ride, measure period