Contests for 2013
PSM Days Map
Click for PSM website
Physics, Science & Math Days
Imagine 10,000 students at California's Great America,
armed with worksheets, calculators and accelerometers,
all taking part in one of the largest physics lab
activities in the world - Amusement Park Physics.
Where can the experimenter step into the experiment and
subject him/herself to forces in excess of 3 G's? Where
can they experience zero-G and live to tell the tale?
Where can they verify the PHYSICS they've been learning
all year long? Where else but at California's Great
America on Physics, Science, and Math Days.
Students at California's Great America have access to
one of the world's largest laboratories for carrying our
real-world science experiments. While on the rides, they
experience a dizzying array of forces. Where did they
feel which kind of force? And ultimately, why did they
feel those particular forces there?
The beauty of Physics, Science and Math Days
lies in linking classroom theory with the reality of
what happens on multiple-g rides like Vortex and Drop
Tower. We encourage teachers to prepare their students
to make the most out of the opportunity that is present
at Physics, Science and Math Days. Choose
quality activities that will engage them and help them
to learn more about the science behind their amusement
park experience. That is why we've prepared this website
that is jam-packed with activities, hints, tips and
Dates for 2013-14
Sat, Feb 1, 2014
PSM Day 1
Fri, May 2, 2014
PSM Day 2
Fri, May 9, 2014
PSM Day 3
Fri, May 16, 2014
The 2013 order form
was available from this website as well as from the
California's Great America website. When the 2014
version is ready, it will be linked here
A Brief History
Physics Day at Great America was started in 1983 by Don
Rathjen from Foothill High School. Initially, he brought
his physics students to the park on a normal operating
day. In the second year, he brought three other teachers
and their physics students to Great America, armed with
accelerometers and calculators to study the physics
behind roller coasters.
Over the years, Physics Day grew until the park opened
up on a non-operating day, exclusively for physics
students. The number of students grew, and the number of
middle school science students attending the park had
also grown. Two separate days were scheduled, one for
high school physics, the other for middle school
science. In 1995, a third day was added to accommodate
math students who explore applications of mathematics in
the real world.
Physics Day, now Physics, Science & Math Days,
has been in continuous operation since 1983. It's one of
the only special days of its type where the park is open
just for students and teachers for educational purposes.
30 years and going strong!
A steering committee of physics, science and math
teachers develops materials that are published for
students and teachers, including these resources for
teachers and students. The committee works closely with
the park to improve these special days, and conducts an
annual Teacher Orientation. The Special Events
Department at California's Great America works hard to
make these days a success for teachers and students from
throughout Northern California and as far north as
British Columbia, Canada.
What was new for 2013
A new, large, woody made its
way to California's Great America. It is the tallest and
fastest wooden coaster in Northern California. Click the
logo to the right to see a page devoted to the new ride.
Photo, renderings and an animated video are included so
you can see what's in store for everyone.
While Gold Striker wasn't running during PSM Days in 2013,
it is now up and amazing riders. So plan on including it
in your activities for 2014.
Note: The park
specifically permits the use of measuring devices for
determining accelerations and forces on the rides. The
devices, manual or electronic, must be tethered to the student or
they will not be allowed on rides. Follow the link for
Many years past, Great America printed out a packet of
activities, shrink-wrapped it and distributed it with the
tickets sent to schools in the spring. Subsequently, the
entire packet was converted to electronic form and
available on a CD that was distributed with the school's
tickets. Now the entire packet is online and available by
following the "Curricular Activities" link above left, or
by clicking on this link: Activity
Packet. Whether the CD will continue to be produced
in the future is up in the air as this page is being
updated. Stay tuned.