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Rollercoasters help students experience the thrill of science

More than 2,500 high school students take part in Science Day at Calaway Park
May 30, 2014
Students taking part in Science Day at Calaway Park experience first-hand the abstract physics and mathematics concepts they learned about in the classroom.

Students taking part in Science Day at Calaway Park experience first-hand the abstract physics and mathematics concepts they learned about in the classroom.

Junior and senior high school students from across Calgary will experience Calaway Park’s thrilling rides in an entirely new way thanks to an event held today by the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science.

From studying the Cosmic Spin’s centrifugal forces to looking at the Vortex’s twists and turns, the eighth annual Science Day hosted at the amusement park just west of Calgary is intended to help science teachers get their students excited about the sciences with a particular emphasis on mathematics and physics.

As part of the one-day event, students are encouraged to bring their stop watches, measuring tapes, and try a few rides to boost their understanding of the math and physics concepts they encounter.

To support their learning, Phil Langill, an instructor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, developed two Rollercoasterology workbooks.

The junior high workbook teaches students concepts related to mechanical systems including simple machines, forces, and geometry. The senior high workbook offers insights on Newton's laws, acceleration, and energy.

In the books, key learning themes are explained using various rides at Calaway Park ride including Vortex, Ocean Motion, Dream Machine, Free Fallin', and Cosmic Spin.

“What’s amazing about the day is how it allows students to gain first-hand experiences on the abstract physics and mathematics concepts they have seen in the classroom,” says Langill. “Exposing the students to these themes in an experiential, active and fun learning environment significantly improves how they grasp the content.”

As a complement to the learning guides, University of Calgary staff from the Department of Physics and Astronomy will be on site throughout the day to guide the students and answer questions.

“By the end of the day, students who will have completed their workbooks and done all the necessary rides will be well on their way to earning a mini degree in rollercoasterology,” says Langill with a smile.

In total, 2,600 students are expected to brave the rides as part of the highly anticipated Science Day at Calaway Park. “We are absolutely thrilled to be partnered with the University of Calgary in our annual Science Day,” says Bob Williams, Calaway Park's general manager. “Having fun at an amusement park and education do mix well,” he concludes.