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published by the WGBH Educational Foundation
supported by the The Walmart Foundation
This is a self-paced multimedia tutorial for middle school that explores how cars move along a roller coaster track as a result of energy transformation. It is part of the Inspiring Middle School Literacy project, in which students develop literacy skills as they explore a focused science or math concept. They read informational text, learn and practice vocabulary words, and explore content through videos and interactive activities. When they are finished, students select and complete a writing assignment offline.

Registered teacher-users may set up accounts for students over age 13 to track progress and document completion of work.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Motion in Two Dimensions
= 2D Acceleration
= Central Forces
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
= Mechanical Power
Education Practices
- Pedagogy
= Multidisciplinary
- Technology
= Multimedia
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Interactive Simulation
= Problem/Problem Set
= Tutorial
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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Access Rights:
Free access
© 2011 WGBH Educational Foundation
friction, kinetic energy, mechanical energy, potential energy
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created November 19, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
February 20, 2014 by Caroline Hall

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M4. Energy appears in different forms and can be transformed within a system. Motion energy is associated with the speed of an object. Thermal energy is associated with the temperature of an object. Gravitational energy is associated with the height of an object above a reference point. Elastic energy is associated with the stretching or compressing of an elastic object. Chemical energy is associated with the composition of a substance. Electrical energy is associated with an electric current in a circuit. Light energy is associated with the frequency of electromagnetic waves.
  • 9-12: 4E/H1. Although the various forms of energy appear very different, each can be measured in a way that makes it possible to keep track of how much of one form is converted into another. Whenever the amount of energy in one place diminishes, the amount in other places or forms increases by the same amount.
  • 9-12: 4E/H9. Many forms of energy can be considered to be either kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion, or potential energy, which depends on the separation between mutually attracting or repelling objects.
4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
  • 9-12: 4F/H7. In most familiar situations, frictional forces complicate the description of motion, although the basic principles still apply.

11. Common Themes

11A. Systems
  • 6-8: 11A/M2. Thinking about things as systems means looking for how every part relates to others. The output from one part of a system (which can include material, energy, or information) can become the input to other parts. Such feedback can serve to control what goes on in the system as a whole.
11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.

12. Habits of Mind

12D. Communication Skills
  • 6-8: 12D/M2. Read simple tables and graphs produced by others and describe in words what they show.
  • 6-8: 12D/M4. Understand oral, written, or visual presentations that incorporate circle charts, bar and line graphs, two-way data tables, diagrams, and symbols.

Next Generation Science Standards

Energy (MS-PS3)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to describe the relationships of kinetic energy to the mass of an object and to the speed of an object. (MS-PS3-1)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
Types of Interactions (PS2.B)
  • The gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth's surface pulls that object toward the planet's center. (5)
Definitions of Energy (PS3.A)
  • Motion energy is properly called kinetic energy; it is proportional to the mass of the moving object and grows with the square of its speed. (6-8)
  • A system of objects may also contain stored (potential) energy, depending on their relative positions. (6-8)
Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (PS3.B)
  • When the motion energy of an object changes, there is inevitably some other change in energy at the same time. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Cause and Effect (K-12)
  • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems. (6-8)
Systems and System Models (K-12)
  • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions. (6-8)
Energy and Matter (2-12)
  • Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion). (6-8)
  • Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter. (6-8)
Structure and Function (K-12)
  • Structures can be designed to serve particular functions. (6-8)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
    • Develop and use a model to describe phenomena. (6-8)
Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information (K-12)
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to evaluating the merit and validity of ideas and methods. (6-8)
    • Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and methods used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence. (6-8)
    • Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information in written text with that contained in media and visual displays to clarify claims and findings. (6-8)

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
  • RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
Craft and Structure (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6—8 texts and topics.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6—8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Common Core State Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6—12

Text Types and Purposes (6-12)
  • 2. Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (WHST.6-8.2)
Research to Build and Present Knowledge (6-12)
  • WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion
Unit Title: The Case of Roller Coasters

This self-paced multimedia tutorial explores how cars move along a roller coaster track as a result of energy transformation. Part of the Middle School Literacy Project, it is designed to develop literacy skills in the context of a focused science or math lesson. Students read informational text, build vocabulary, view videos and interactive simulations, and create written responses in both short and extended forms. Registered teachers may set up student accounts for tracking progress.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2011), WWW Document, (http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/midlit11.sci.splenergy/energy-transfer-in-a-roller-coaster/).
PBS Learning Media: Energy Transfer in a Roller Coaster, (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2011), <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/midlit11.sci.splenergy/energy-transfer-in-a-roller-coaster/>.
APA Format
PBS Learning Media: Energy Transfer in a Roller Coaster. (2011). Retrieved January 20, 2017, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/midlit11.sci.splenergy/energy-transfer-in-a-roller-coaster/
Chicago Format
The Walmart Foundation. PBS Learning Media: Energy Transfer in a Roller Coaster. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2011. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/midlit11.sci.splenergy/energy-transfer-in-a-roller-coaster/ (accessed 20 January 2017).
MLA Format
PBS Learning Media: Energy Transfer in a Roller Coaster. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2011. The Walmart Foundation. 20 Jan. 2017 <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/midlit11.sci.splenergy/energy-transfer-in-a-roller-coaster/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PBS Learning Media: Energy Transfer in a Roller Coaster}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {20 January 2017}, Year = {2011} }
Refer Export Format

%T PBS Learning Media: Energy Transfer in a Roller Coaster
%D 2011
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%C Boston
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/midlit11.sci.splenergy/energy-transfer-in-a-roller-coaster/
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D 2011
%T PBS Learning Media: Energy Transfer in a Roller Coaster
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%V 2017
%N 20 January 2017
%9 text/html
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/midlit11.sci.splenergy/energy-transfer-in-a-roller-coaster/

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

The MLA Style presented is based on information from the MLA FAQ.

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PBS Learning Media: Energy Transfer in a Roller Coaster:

Same topic as Roller Coaster Model

A set of packaged materials for middle school in which students use a computer model to explore the motion of a roller coaster. Energy bar graphs are displayed to show changing kinetic and potential energy levels.

relation by Caroline Hall

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