There are so many wonderful events that take place in the book The Polar Express. One of my favorites is the Santa taking off in his sleigh. You might enjoy having your children do a STEM experiment based on that section of the story. The experiment is to find out if a sleigh will travel faster or slower down a rooftop if it is filled with a sack filled with heavy or light objects. I am calling it The Polar Express STEM Sleigh Exploration.
The Polar Express Exploration
Making the Sleigh
The first thing your children are going to need to do is to build a sleigh. A small box makes a great sleigh. They can leave the box as it is or cut it to make it look more sleigh like. Then they will need to paint the sleigh. (We found that acrylic paint works well on cardboard.) Finally, They can decorate the sleigh with ribbons, sticks, or drawing tools (marker, crayons or paint).
Making the Ramp
Once you have your sleigh build, you will need to create a roof for the sleigh to travel down. We used a decorative tin as the base for our ramp that looks like a Christmas present. The ramp is roasting pan turned upside down. You could use a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan instead if you like.
Santa Sack for the Objects
You will need a sack to hold the objects you will be placing in the tray. It can be a homemade sack like we used or you can use a cloth sack or stocking you already have. We made ours by cutting out a circle of felt. Holes were punched around the edge of the felt. Then cord was woven through holes.
We made ours by cutting out a circle of felt. Holes are punched around the edge of the felt. Then cord was woven through holes.
You will want to have some heavy objects like rocks and glass pebbles. You will also want to have lighter objects like buttons and coins.
The Polar Express Exploration Begins
- Place a small number of objects into the sack and then place it in the sleigh.
- Then you will place the sleigh at the top of the ramp. Have your children give it a little push to get it to go down the ramp. It will be fun to see how far down the ramp the sleigh will travel.
- Next, they will change the objects in the sack. They will try having the sleigh travel down the ramp again. Have your children share orally or record on paper which object made it travel the farthest.
- They will repeat this process until they have tried transporting each of the objects down the ramp.
The Polar Express experiment can be expanded to include a steeper incline or additional objects.
Deirdre is the founder and author of JDaniel 4’s Mom. A teacher from Virgina she has 1 son JDaniel 4th.
A specialist in Technology Intergration as well as Early Elementary teaching she can be found sharing hands-on learning over on her blog JDaniel 4’s Mom.
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