Students will learn about the laws of motion and force.
- Wolfram Research
Eric Weisstein's World of Biography, Retrieved January 23, 2005
For the class:
For each group:
- Paper drawing of a log
- Paper clip
For each student:
- Science Experiments With Forces, by S. Nankivell-Aston & D.
Jackson; ISBN 0-531-14582-4
- Pushing and Pulling, by G. Gibson; ISBN 0-7613-0461-4
- Forces and Movement, by P. Riley; ISBN 0-531-15368-1
- The Handy Science Answer Book, by the Carnegie Library of
Pittsburgh; ISBN 0810394510
- Super Science Investigations, Grades 3-5, (available from
1-877-696-0825); Item TEC919
Background for Teachers
Thanks to Sir Isaac Newton’s research of approximately 360 years
ago, we have the laws of motion and force. Those laws have led to many
wonderful achievements in science, which have profound impact on our
everyday lives. His first law states that objects at rest will remain at rest
unless acted upon by an outside force that is great enough to overcome
the object’s inertia, or tendency to stay still; the larger the object
more force is required to move it.
The activities in this lesson are designed to lead students to
understand this concept and to relate it to their everyday lives.
Some classes may need some time built into the lesson to explore the
materials before they are ready to handle them appropriately. Some
students are extremely sensory-based in their actions and the manner in which
they attempt to make sense of their world. If needed, conduct a short, introductory
activity to allow the students to handle the materials, showing them how to
appropriately use them.
Intended Learning Outcomes
1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
2. Manifest Scientific Attitudes and Interests
3. Understand Science Concepts and Principles
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
Invitation to Learn
Bump on a Log
Divide students into groups and place a lump of clay in front of them
on the floor or on a group of desks. Use the Bump on a
Log handout to
connect with the idiomatic phrase, if desired. Instruct them not to touch
the clay or try to move it in any way. Have the students discuss and
describe it’s action by answering the following questions:
- What is
the lump of clay doing?
- What can the lump of clay do?
- How long will it stay here if we leave
Have students share their observations with the class.
- Referring to the background
information or other sources,
introduce Sir Isaac Newton and his contribution to science.
Newton’s first law of motion: An object at rest
will remain at rest unless acted on by an outside force.
- Ask students
to explore what force is and discuss with their group
how they are going to move their lump of clay.
- Explain that they may move
the clay by any means that they can
think of, without picking it up, changing its shape, or moving it
into another group’s workspace. Allow about one minute to
- Ask: “What actions did you use to move the lump of clay?” If
they say “with my finger,” dig deeper: “What did you
your finger? How did your finger move the clay?” The
discussion should culminate with a definition of force: Force is a
push or a pull.
- What are the results of pushes? Pushes may be hard or soft.
What will happen if we move the clay by a soft push? (It will
move a little.) What will happen if we move the clay by a hard
push? (It will move a lot.) Experiment to see how much force
is necessary to move an object. What are the results from using
different amounts of force?
- Next, move the class to a taped area on the
floor. Do the
activity, Move It, Sir Isaac.
- We are going to explore the results
of soft and hard pushes
on objects. This is going to be like a contest. Students take
turns pushing, counting, and measuring. Place the lump of
clay on the starting line, then move it by soft pushes to the
finish line a yard away. Take turns. One person will push, one will record,
the others will count. Record how many pushes it took. Measure the first
push and record it. Then start over, taking turns pushing the clay harder,
recording results. Repeat the activity with the paper clip, and then
with the marble.
- Model for the students how to push softly, then hard,
showing them how to measure the first push. Demonstrate
how to complete the Move It, Sir Isaac! worksheet.
- Have one student on
each team do each activity. This student
will be the designated monitor to help keep group members on
task. Check for understanding. Give feedback or reteach if
- To help all students
remember the first law of force and motion,
guide them to create a mental model (Payne, 2002), e.g., draw a
picture or other representation of the law, then explain it in their
own words. Include these representations in their science
- Students predict how many pushes each object will need. Based
on their prediction, would larger objects need more or fewer
pushes? After making their predictions, experiment, then analyze
the results. They would create a double bar graph showing the
- Integrate with physical education using a scooter activity to
explore the effects of pushing and pulling.
Use the Move It at Home, Sir Isaac! worksheet to compare the
force needed to move various objects in the home. Record the
results and share with the class (e.g., instead of using a finger to
push a small object, what did they use to move a box of cereal?
What did they use to move a chair? What would they have to use
to move their bed?). Be sure to record the number of hard and
soft pushes used and the distance the object was moved.
- Students show an example of and/or articulate Newton’s
of motion. They will write, articulate, or demonstrate the
definition of force.
- The Move It, Sir Isaac! and Move It at Home, Sir
Isaac! worksheets will be included in science journals.
Carpenter, T.P., Blanton, M.L., Cobb, P., Franke, M.L., Kaput, J., McClain,
Scaling Up Innovative Practices in Mathematics and Science. National Center For
Improving Student Learning and Achievement in Mathematics and Science.
Learning with understanding must build on what students already
know and their ways of thinking. Teachers need to gain understanding of
ideas that would enable them to adapt an innovation in teaching practices
to their own instructional settings. Instead of thinking of adopting
resources and using them as they are presented, teachers need to adapt
the resources to the needs of their teaching circumstances.