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Inside the Classroom: Melanie Morrison at Oak Ridge

Our “Inside the Classroom” feature this week steps out into the hallway. Students in Melanie Morrison’s fourth grade class have been learning about different types of energy, so they worked with potential and mechanical energy to create roller cars.

Benjamin Teel, a student in Mrs. Morrison’s class, said his favorite part of the project was learning that a simple rubber band could create enough energy to make a cup roll. Here’s what Mrs. Morrison had to say.

Q: What did the roller cars do?
Morrison: In the activity, students build rubber-band cars and then predict how many times the straw needs to be wound to make the car roll and end up in the “sweet spot.” Students learn how a wind-up toy stores energy when you wind the spring. The more energy stored, the farther the toy will go. Students see this first-hand with their own roller cars. When students let go of the straw, the energy is released, and the cars roll until the rubber band inside has completely unwound. Students race to see who can get their car to stop in the “sweet spot” first. This spot is a taped off area 8-10 feet from the starting line.

Q: What does this process teach students?
Morrison: Students were studying various forms of energy. This lesson was an extension from Mystery Science that examines how energy can make things go.

Q: What was the students’ reaction?
Morrison: The students are amazed that the cars actually go and love seeing how far the cars will go if we keep winding the straw more and more.

Q: What is your favorite part about the activity?
Morrison: My favorite part of this activity is that students are completely engrossed in the learning and competition while simultaneously having this sense of awe that they created something using such simple supplies that can travel down the hallway of the school.