Amusement Park Returns to JWPMS

Posted on February 23, 2016, in Academics

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The General McLane Amusement Park Project has returned to James W. Parker Middle School.

This project is a miniature working amusement park, complete with mega coasters and water rides that are 100% KNEX based.

It is fully funded and loaned out each year to the sixth grade students by a private individual in the community. The materials have never cost the district any money to provide this learning experience to the students.

This project started over a decade ago as a fifth grade project with only about 12 rides and one small roller coaster. Now, this sixth grade project has grown to over 60 rides, with up to three mega coasters. Last year’s park was the biggest of any and had more than sixty basic rides, many water rides, three mega-coasters and “green” solar powered rides. There was also a “Grand Illumination,” where all the rides were let up with lights.

“Doing the amusement park project gives students a chance to apply and use their math skills in a real life situation, which produces direct visible results,” said James W. Parker Middle School teacher Christopher Triola. “This project is meant to show the results when kids apply what they learn and are held to high standards. The park requires a huge amount of efforts by the students and has very high standards for success.”

To date, fifteen rides are completed and students have started the extension to the Dragonfly Roller Coaster. The project kicked off at the end of January and so far, Mrs. Helsley and Mr. Triola’s classes have been working on the rides. The entire sixth grade is involved in this year’s project.

Although there are other standards being covered within this project, the focal math covered includes coverage of the following standards, Number And Operations, Geometry, Algebra. The math skills apply to everything from basic calculations to geometry and data applications. In addition to math, students also practice literacy and art when they write a four-page brochure/report on the ride they helped build.

Despite the fact that all rides must be made from KNEX parts or parts that come from the KNEX product lines, Triola said that students have realized that thinking outside of the box makes for limitless possibilities.

“This is how we started making water rides,” Triola said. “Obviously there would be no way of building a swimming pool out of KNEX parts, but one year a young lady asked if she could use one of the bags that parts are shipped in from the company. Her reasoning was that it was a KNEX product and it did come from the KNEX company so she could build a frame to hold the bag much the way a swimming pool is designed to hold a pool liner.”

The class hosts an opening day for the park, which is open to the public. This date has yet to be set.