Story Time | Roller Coasters | Fifth Grade

This is an article about what makes roller coasters go, go, go.

Subject: Reading
Subskill: Reading Comprehension
Concept: Author’s Purpose
Grade Level: Upper Elementary

Have you ever ridden a roller coaster? Roller coasters are tons of fun. They are full of ups, downs, twists, turns, and sometimes loops! As you’ve zipped along with the wind in your hair, trying to catch your breath, you probably never thought about what made it so much fun. You may not realize it, but the thing that makes roller coasters go, go, go is a kind of science called physics.

Did you know that gravity keeps everything pulled down and grounded on Earth? In order to move off the ground, objects must work against gravity. Scientists determine how fast something is speeding up with a unit of measure called g-force. Normal gravity on Earth is measured as 1 g. The space shuttle taking off is approximately 3 g’s.

Scientists work out complicated g-force formulas when creating roller coasters. Depending on the g-force, roller coasters can make you feel anywhere from 0 g’s, which makes you feel like you are floating, to over 5 g’s, which makes you feel like you’re being squashed in your seat!

A type of energy that roller coasters use to go is called potential energy. Potential energy is defined as energy that is waiting to be unleashed. For example, when a roller coaster train is sitting on the top of a big hill, it has the potential, or possibility, of going really fast after it goes over the hill and down the side. This is why the biggest hill on a roller coaster is the first one. If a train is going up a really high hill, then it will have a lot of potential energy. The more potential energy the train has, the faster it will eventually go through all the twists, turns, and loops.

The kind of energy that roller coasters use to zip through twists, turns, and loops is called kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is energy that is actually moving. For example, a falling rock has kinetic energy. So, when the roller coaster goes down a steep hill, around a turn, through a loop and up the next big hill, it is using its kinetic energy. You feel the kinetic energy as you fly around a roller coaster track. It can make you feel excited, scared, or maybe even sick!

So the next time you ride a roller coaster, don’t forget that you owe all your fun to the dedicated scientists who study physics. If you think you’d like to be a scientist who creates fun, maybe you could look into becoming one of the elite: a roller coaster scientist!

Here are some questions to ask about the article:

What is G-Force?
What is Potential Energy?
What is Kinetic Energy?
Why did the author write this article?

Reading Curriculum and Reading Games by Smart Tutor



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