Overstreet students build, exhibit roller coasters

Fifth grader Martin Jelinek steadies his group’s roller coaster “The Missile Roller” before sending a marble down the machine. Students in the schools VIVA program exhibited the roller coasters they built over the past few months Tuesday. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)
Fifth graders Rebecca Jolley, left, and Alex Jones prepare to send a marble through their group’s roller coaster named “Triple Twilight Twister.” Students in the school’s PEAK program for the intellectually gifted built the coasters over the past three months. (Photos by Charlie Benton,SDN)
Staff Writer

Students in the Program for Enrichment of Academic Knowledge (PEAK) gifted program at Overstreet Elementary got to show off a long-term project to family, friends and classmates Tuesday.

For the second year, Overstreet PEAK students built roller coasters out of paper and other parts. The coasters, some standing more than six feet tall, sent marbles along several different routes to the bottom of the track and sported colorful names like “Cheese Whizz,” “The Missile Roller” and “Triple Twilight Twister.”

All students at Overstreet came through the gym where the roller coasters were located Tuesday, and were given five marbles each to spend on their favorites. Students building the roller coasters are given a budget to spend on various parts, and are assigned various roles in the build. Architectural models built by other PEAK students were also on display.

“It’s a pretty involved project,” said Overstreet PEAK teacher Carrie McMillen. “We give them a certain amount of money that they start with, and they have to buy their pieces from us by writing checks and keeping up with their debts. They decide what pieces they want to buy to add to the roller coaster, and then they also earn money through their ‘jobs’ that they have.”

Some students in each group were assigned to design, others as project managers and others to keep up with the group’s funds.

McMillen said the project also covered other parts of the students’ curriculum. “Really, it’s just kind of a problem-solving activity, you know, what pieces are going to fit together, what works, what doesn’t, kind of trial and error going back and forth trying to make a successful roller coaster.

They were all totally different,” McMillen said. “Creativity comes into play, too. Some of them created their own pieces out of the pieces that we showed them. They’ve had a ton of fun with it.”

She said the students made a few changes in their designs based on lessons learned the previous year, mainly to make their designs better reinforced and durable.

Students are referred to PEAK based on state guidelines for eligibility to intellectually gifted programs. The program seeks to nurture learning growth based on students’ interests and offer problem-solving opportunities. PEAK runs from second to sixth grade. Verbal Innovations for Visual Arts (VIVA), an additional program for artistically gifted students is also available for fourth and fifth graders.