Inquiry Based Lesson – Building Rollercoasters


The main topic this lesson seeks to explore is conservation of energy by building tube roller coasters.  For many students, the relationships behind the conservation of energy can be difficult to visualize.  This inquiry based lesson will push students to ask questions of different design choices in order to address the scenario given to them.  By collaborating with each other and asking me questions, students are able to develop successful designs without direct guidance from me.  By the end of this lesson, students will be to describe the relationships behind the conservation of energy, define kinetic and potential energy, and explain the concepts behind certain roller coaster design features..  This is a full inquiry lesson because it displays all the features of inquiry with the following variations: questions-4, evidence-2, analysis-2, explain-2, connection-2, and communication-3. In summary, the lesson is more self-directed and student-centered and can be defined as a guided inquiry lesson.

For modifications, standards, technology integration, learning objectives, and assessment, see the lesson plan below.

Lesson Resources

Inquiry Based Lesson – Rollercoaster – This inquiry lesson plan includes the related standards, learning goals, modifications, assessment plans, and lesson procedure as well as the student handout for the activity.


The inquiry based learning method is very conducive to scientific inquiry.  Students are given a problem or scenario and tasked with developing a solution through methods of inquiry and critical thinking.  Inquiry based learning also increases student engagement as students feel that the knowledge they are gaining is relevant to the problem they have been tasked to solve.  This particular topic is a good fit with the inquiry model because it allows students to investigate the energy relationships on their own and develop more meaningful learning while also utilizing creativity in their designs.  Two potential issues in the inquiry model are students only doing the activity instead of engaging in inquiry and getting students to buy in to an unfamiliar instructional style.  I will address the first issue by making sure to constant monitor the room and ask students who appear to be off task guiding questions in order to refocus them on inquiry.  As for the buy in, I will discuss with students the benefits of inquiry based learning as well as give them a preview of things to come in order to hook them.


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