It's a Wild Ride is an extended interdisciplinary project that studies roller coaster design in science, mathematics, and language arts classrooms. Students learn and apply laws of motion, linear equations, and technical reporting. As the eight-week project unfolds, they move from learning content-specific knowledge and skills to applying what they learn in a group design task. Ultimately, students must convince the theme park to accept their group's design through persuasive presentations.
This set of resources is intended for teachers who would like to learn more about project-based learning. It can be used effectively in an inquiry or study group setting.
- Develop more focused and personalized visions of technology integration
- Identify new strategies for technology-supported, project-based learning
- Find and adapt classroom-tested materials that support integration of technology
- Consider new methods to meet technology integration challenges
It's a Wild Ride takes a high-interest topic, roller coaster design, and models effective use of technology, project learning, and interdisciplinary teacher teaming.
It's a Wild Ride is not a recipe or a list of "project ideas." This video and Web-based resource offers a rich, highly contextual case study of good teaching through effective strategies at work in real classrooms. One project is explored in depth, with behind-the-scenes information, teacher planning, strategy development, and reflections from the teachers. A short, lively video introduces the project and organizes your exploration of the extensive Web site. Everything before, during, and after the project can be found on the Web site: Over 200 pages of content, from the materials used on the first day, to the student samples from the last day, are available for review.
Student Rollercoaster Project
Watch the Video
The video provides a visual overview of the classrooms and the It's a Wild Ride learning project and is intended to introduce the Web site. The video and the Web site are organized into the same segments, which makes the video a good "table of contents" for the extensive Web site materials.
As you view the video, make mental or written notes of what interests you:
- What do you want to know more about?
- What would you like to have?
- What would you want to explore further on the Web site?
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the Web site
I. Learning that Works
It's a Wild Ride takes a high-interest topic, roller coasters, and builds content-specific knowledge before moving to an open-ended group design task.
Effective projects usually begin by accessing student prior knowledge. How did the teaching team for the Wild Ride project access the prior knowledge of their students?
In what ways were the teachers able to tie content-specific skills and underlying principles into the project?
What were some ways that teachers used to expand knowledge about roller coaster design?
How were the students able to apply their new knowledge about roller coasters in the design process?
What activity was used to introduce the students to the concept of being a member of a design team?
How did students decide which role to assume on the design team?
How did the students measure velocity and acceleration of cars moving through roller coaster elements?
What were some ways that the teachers helped the students build language arts research skills?
The final event is a field trip that is directly connected to It's a Wild Ride. Students and teachers traveled to Lagoon Amusement Park in Utah and they tested what they knew about rides firsthand.
What were some ways the field trip activity demonstrated student learning?
What were some of the various curriculum area objectives of the Wild Ride project?
How did the teachers align project objectives with state standards?
II. Working Together
Planning, scheduling, and monitoring work in three classrooms requires coordinated teamwork among teachers and students.
How did the teachers manage time scheduling of the sequence of activities?
What method was developed to help students stay organized?
How were individuals on the design teams able to share their progress with the group?
III. Using Workspaces
Flexibility in technology access and an extended-period schedule supports this multifaceted project that integrates several different technologies.
How was the project organized to make the best use of school facilities?
IV. Assessing Learning
Traditionally, assessment has been administered as the last step of a project or unit to test for student learning. A more complete measure of student learning should begin at the start of a project. Rubrics can be developed and introduced with the tasks that are assigned to students. The results of these rubrics combined with more traditional testing methods give a more complete picture of the effectiveness of projects in student learning.
Students were assessed throughout the Wild Ride project. At the end of the project, student design teams made their final presentation proposals to the entire group. Some groups used videos, others created PowerPoint* presentations, and some built Web sites.
How does the scoring rubric at:
What mechanism was used to monitor progress and identify possible problem areas?
How did a collaborative team of teachers manage to grade student group final presentations?
What kind of indicators did teachers look for when grading individuals as members of student groups?
What are some of the more traditional ways teachers used to assess student performance?
V. Supporting Success
A committed teaching team and a strong instructional leader are only two of the several factors that support successful classrooms at work.
In what ways was the Wild Ride project supported?
About the Resource
This resource was developed at the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL), a federally funded research and dissemination organization that serves five Northwest states. Intel® Innovation in Education established a collaborative alliance with the lab to distribute the video nationally, and expand the Web resource on Intel's education Web site. Both resources are free.
Additional free copies of the video are available: order video.