Build Your Own Roller Coaster

As part of our Spectacular Science series, constructing roller coasters was a good activity for builders and makers. It required ingenuity, patience, and a little luck. The object is to create a roller coaster using 3/4 inch foam pipe insulation, masking tape, and marbles. The roller coaster should have one loop and one hill. Ideally, the marble should end up in a cup at the end of its ride.

While our teens were a little reluctant at first, they were soon captivated, learning about centrifugal force, potential energy, and kinetic energy without even realizing it. They were even able to make a diagonal loop and a roller coaster with three loops. I had thought that we would have teams compete against each other, but people trickled in, so they completed their roller coasters in a more staggered fashion. At the end of the activity, all the tubing was compiled into one mega roller coaster, which was really cool.

Check out the cool video Scott made.


Fama Club

You probably haven’t heard of Fama Club before. I would be surprised if you had because it is a word I invented to define a unique blend of Film and Drama Club. “Drama Club” seemed too blah, and “Film Club” seemed too fancy. For Fama Club, we do a variety of drama games including charades, pop-up book, and killer handshake. After the games, we focus on a larger project like making a movie or maybe a commercial for summer reading.

The group of teens we have is great at coming up with ideas, they just need a little help finding focus and bringing their ideas into fruition. So far, we have used an extra large pad of paper to brainstorm and start working on our plot. There is one individual who has a vision about what the movie will be about. He was going to help write the script, but since he was the only one working on it, we decided to just improvise for each scene instead of working from a script. Here are some of the places we found awesome games:

pop-up book

killer wink, (or killer handshake: the killer taps the victim’s wrist)


Giant Connect 4

Yesterday we played Giant Connect 4 on our windows. Using smiley faces cut on the die-cut machine, we were able to create a large imitation of the game. Yes, we had ladders out, but the teens didn’t need to go too high to reach the top of the game area. We also thought about laying out the game on the floor with masking tape like we did when we played Giant Scrabble. If you don’t have a die-cut machine, you could cut circles out, or buy different colored plates. We had two games going at once, and we provided candy and chips as prizes to the winning teams. It was well worth it and inexpensive 🙂

Rock Tic-Tac-Toe

The materials for Rock Tic-Tac-Toe were pretty cheap because I had some the extra cedar fence scraps and the rocks were left over from another activity. In addition, we had acrylic paint and Mod Podge (to provide a protective coating) ready to be used.

The prep work for this program took a while, but it was worth it. I cut my wood into squares (a hardware store can do this for you if it isn’t something you feel comfortable doing). I also used a palm sander to take down the corners and rough spots. Depending upon the look you are going for and the type of wood you use, you may not need to sand very much at all. I coated the wood with Kilz, which prevents the acrylic paint from sinking into the wood. I measured the spaces for the grid, and sketched it out lightly with pencil. I sorted the rocks by size and texture, and then we washed them because they were dirty.

I made my example like one I saw online because it was so cute. Aphids are the real enemies of ladybugs, but bees are so much more fun to paint!

The teens had a great time!

Lego Tournament

This was our first Lego tournament, and it was super fun! Teams competed as they constructed five different creations: an animal you would see at the zoo, world’s coolest skyscraper, a science fiction creature, a re-imagined Batmobile, a maze that a Lego person could walk through. The creations were rated on a series of criteria: teamwork, originality, use of supplies, and presentation. Then the winners were awarded with candy or chips. It was very inexpensive because we borrowed the Children’s Department Lego collection, and we had a stash of candy and chips left over from previous activities. It was fun for everyone and fostered creativity and teamwork 🙂

Welsh Cakes

Welsh cakes are very yummy. If you make the dough, you can let the teens decide what they want to put in it. Making the dough is a little involved because it needs to sit in the fridge for at least half an hour, but no more than two hours. This recipe also calls for buttermilk, but you can make your own by mixing 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts milk. Each participant shaped their cakes on floured wax paper because the dough needs to handled on a non-sticky surface. Ingredients we laid out included: Craisins, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, cheese, and powdered sugar for the top. The cakes can be cooked on electric griddles, or on the stove. If you do not have either of these, the teens can take their dough home for cooking. If you want to add a Kahoot! quiz about England, your program can have an element of learning fun like ours!

Iron Chef: Ramen

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Iron Chef is always a big success in our department. This time, Ramen was the secret ingredient. Teams had to make an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert, and each dish had to include Ramen. After the teams had created their dishes, staff members tasted the dishes and choose 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. There was much anticipation as the judges decided; the teens plastered themselves to the windows trying to see who was going to win. Then the winners were announced, and everyone ate.

This is a particularly good activity if you find that you have accumulated a lot of random food items, and you are not entirely sure what to do with these food items. It is also a great activity to have near the beginning of the school year, so that the new teens in the department have a memorable and fun experience in your department. We always have a cutting station, and only one person is allowed to cut at a time (the knife is not very large or sharp). It is also a good idea to allow extra time for cleanup, in case you need to scrape the peanut butter and chocolate off the tables. I strongly recommend you try this program; it appeals to a wide range of teens and promotes teamwork 🙂