In this lesson plan, children explore how different objects move when placed on a ramp. They begin by learning about ramps and inclines. They predict how several objects will behave when placed at the top of a ramp, then test them out, sorting the objects by the results achieved.. For the objects that roll, children make predictions about how they will behave when placed differently (e.g., sideways) and then test them out. Next, they watch and discuss a video in which Curious George must build a ramp to help Hudley, the dachshund, get out of a basement window. The lesson concludes with children predicting and testing what will happen if a ramp is raised or lowered and how to vary the rate at which things roll. As children go through the activities, they will be using the following science and engineering skills: asking questions, making predictions, planning and conducting experiments, and making and sharing observations.
- Understand that when objects are placed on a ramp, some roll, others slide, and others stay put.
- Understand that the shape of an object and its placement on a ramp affects how the object moves.
- ramp (created by using cardboard, a game board, or a large picture book)
- blocks or a box (to prop up your ramp)
- objects that may or may not roll, such as:
- crumpled paper
- plastic cups or bottles
- rolls of tape
- small blocks
- socks (a single sock and a rolled pair)
- toy car
1. Make a ramp.
- Make a ramp for children by propping up one end of a game board, picture book, or piece of cardboard. (Try leaning your ramp on a box or a stack of blocks.)
- As you set up the ramp, talk about what you are doing, using vocabulary words such as incline and angle. Explain that a ramp is a simple machine. Simple machines can be used to make tasks easier.
2. Slide or roll?
- Gather a variety of objects that may or may not roll (see Supplies above).
- Ask children: What do you think will happen when you put this at the top of the ramp? Will it slide? Will it roll? (Use hand motions to show the difference between roll and slide.) Will it stay put? Why do you think so?
- Let children try it out. As they experiment, have them sort the objects into things that roll, things that slide, and things that stay put.
3. Try out variations.
- Place one of the rolling objects at the top of the ramp, but face it in a different direction. For example, place a car sideways instead of forward, or stand a bottle up instead of placing it on its side.
- Ask children: What do you think will happen? Will this still roll?
- Have them test out their predictions.
- Discuss the results.
4. Watch the video.
- Show the video Curious George: Ramp-n-Roll.
- After children watch the video, ask: Why didn’t the single ramp work for Hundley? How did Curious George come up with the idea to build a series of ramps?
5. Continue the investigation.
- Have children notice how far objects go when they roll down the ramp. Ask: How can you make them go further?
- Raise or lower the ramp. Ask: What happens when you raise or lower the ramp?
- Talk about what might make an object roll faster or how you could slow an object down. See which methods work best. Put an object such as a phone book or a dictionary at the bottom of the ramp as a barrier. Then race two objects down the ramp and watch to see which hits the phone book first.
- Discuss ways to vary the rate at which things roll. Ask: Can you find a way to park a toy car on the ramp without it rolling all the way down, or a way to make a rolling object stop halfway down the ramp?
- Remind children of what Curious George did in the video to make a ramp tall enough for Hundley. Point out that Hundley used the ramp to go up instead of down. Choose a location in your classroom that would require more than one ramp to reach. Brainstorm ideas of how to create a series of ramps in order to get to the top. Try them out!
Extend with Games
- Invite children to play Feed Gnocchi. In this game, children tilt ramps in order to send a meatball to a plate that The Man With the Yellow Hat is holding. (This game is also available in Spanish at http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/games/span_feedgnocchi/.)
Extend with Books
Encourage children to use these books as they continue to learn about ramps.
- Curious George Goes Bowling by H. A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). When The Man in the Yellow Hat forgets his bowling ball, Curious George decides that he can roll the ball right to Bowlmor Lanes!
- Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher (Scholastic, 1993). A little boy spends busy days zooming up hills, down ramps, and around town with his mom, on her wheelchair.
- Roll, Slope, and Slide: A Book about Ramps by Michael Dahl (Picture Window Books, 2006). From skateboard parks, to highway ramps, to ramps on moving vans, this book takes a look at the many ways we use ramps every day.