Wild Water Slide: Engineering and Experimental Design (Part 3/3)

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SWBAT plan and carry out an engineering and experimental investigation about speed using science and engineering practices.

Big Idea

Welcome to the water park! Create a wild water slide and use it to conduct an experiment to answer questions about speed.


Welcome to the physics water park! Middle school students are enthusiastic about roller coasters, water slides and giant water toilet bowls. The Wild Water Slide series of lessons is designed to provide practice planning and carrying out scientific investigations and engineering design processes (SP3). From beginning to end, students ask questions and define problems to determine relationships between independent and dependent variables (SP1) about water slides. Students analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the phenomena they observe (SP4); apply mathematical concepts and/or processes (SP5); construct explanations and design solutions while undertaking a design project (SP6); and engage in argument from evidence (SP7).

Additional connections to Common Core Mathematical Standards in Measurement and Data occur when students collect data and then analyze their data in the last lesson (Part 2) and in today's lesson (Part 3). Students also access WHST.6-8.1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content (Common Core Language Arts Standards) when writing arguments from evidence in this lesson.

This series of lessons can be used or re-used to explore many different concepts including: mass, weight, speed/velocity/acceleration, forces and Newton's Laws of Motion (PS2.A: Forces and Motion). Rather than trying to teach all of these concepts at one time, I choose to concentrate on scientific practice learning objectives and tailor the activities, discussions and assessment to match the objectives.

This series of lessons also provides opportunities to make connections to the Structure and Function cross cutting concept (CCC), which states: structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used. This CCC is most evident when students use engineering practices to design a water slide that uses materials based on their appropriate properties.

The Wild Water Slide series of lessons is a scientific inquiry and engineering design investigation that including lessons taught over the span of 1 week. To help manage the magnitude of this activity, you will find the project split into 3 parts.

  • Part 1 includes the ENGAGE and EXPLORE components of the lesson; Time: 1 - 2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods. 
  • Part 2 includes the EXPLAIN and EXTEND components of the lesson; Time: 2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.
  • Part 3 includes the EVALUATE component of the lesson. Time: 1 - 2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block period.


50 minutes

The EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and growth of understanding has taken place. During this stage of the investigation, students complete Part 6: Communicating Scientifically of the Wild Water Slide Engineering Design Plan (this activity is also referenced in Parts 6 and 7 of the Wild Water Slide Experimental Design Plan). At this point, students have collected data to answer their scientific question related to the speed of their water slides. Now, students will write a one paragraph PACER argument answering the following question:

Did your results agree with your hypothesis? Why or why not?

For additional resources, visit Writing Arguments from Evidence (PACER Arguments). In this case, I provided students with instructions and a template in Google Classroom: Wild Water Slide Investigation To Do and Wild Water Slide Investigation Final PACER Argument.

For examples of final arguments, view:Wild Water Slide Investigation Final PACER Argument - Proficient Student Exemplar and Wild Water Slide Investigation Final PACER Argument - Advanced Student Exemplar.

Since writing may not be the preferred method of assessment for many students, a secondary assessment is assigned that connects to students' creative and artistic strengths. Students create an advertisement for their water slide. Requirements for the advertisement are provided in Wild Water Slide Investigation To Do document.

For examples of advertisements, view:

Wild Water Slide Final Project - Student Exemplar 1

Wild Water Slide Final Project - Student Exemplar 2

Wild Water Slide Final Project - Student Exemplar 3

For more on offering multiple methods for assessment, see this section's reflection - Multiple Assessment Methods or watch this video: