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Physical Science

New Force & Motion Unit - Ideas?

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Nicole Dainty Nicole Dainty 4360 Points

I am beginning a new unit on force and motion with my seventh graders next week. Main concepts include motion/relative motion, speed, velocity, acceleration, and Newton's Laws. This is new curriculum for me, so I'm wondering if anyone knows of or has any: a.) preassessments b.) introductory activities c.) 7th grade appropriate labs that don't require too many expensive materials. Thanks!

Heather Brown Heather Brown 2125 Points

Hello!! Currently I am working on doing a STEM 10 day block plan lesson for a graduate class I am taking. I stumbled along this awesome idea and decided I was going to add more components to it, like different race tracks/ramps and cars. Here is a link to the plan I am using. The project is called "ramp it up". Enjoy!

Equanda Wearing Equanda Wearing 590 Points

Hi Nicole,

I am new to teaching and the use of NSTA.  As I am searching and working on an assignment for Graduate school, I am working on a unit plan on force and motion and this question you posed was right on time.  With all of the answeres that have been provided here, I now have a lot more tools and techniques that I can use with my students.  We are all in this together and I appreciate the feedback you received from the science world or educators.  Thanks again and good luck with the new school year.  I would love to use Kahoot with this unit plan.  Any suggestions on what other tools I can use?


Kathryn Kennedy Kathryn Kennedy 9065 Points

Hi Nicole - I'm reviewing experimental design and practicing for our upcoming summative assessment with a balloon 'rocket' lab tomorrow. Students are going to get two days to work with their groups and come up with three different investigations in which they manipulate the balloon size, type of balloon, length of straw, type of string, etc and the effects of those changes on the balloon speed. I'm attaching my collection of resources I've made this year. If you come up with any cool pre-assessments, I'd love to see them and incorporate them into my unit. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for changes or additions for the collection I'm attaching. Cheers! Kathryn

Physical Science - Unit 1: I like to move it move it!!! Collection (14 items)
- User Uploaded Resource
- User Uploaded Resource
- User Uploaded Resource
Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92326 Points

Hi Nicole and Kathryn!
Thanks for the word documents, Kathryn.
Nicole, I found these journal articles that might be worth a look for grade appropriate lab ideas on motion:
Egg Bungee Jump
Science Sampler: Laws of Motion
Tried and True: An Eggciting Alternative to a Science Olympiad
Fan Car Physics
The Bungee Jump activity sounds especially fun! I hope one of the articles is useful to you with your 7th graders. Also, I love Bill Robertson's Stop Faking It: Force and Motion book. Some of the book chapters are free in the Learning Center. Let me know if you are interested in them and have trouble accessing them.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

I'm going to through this in here, I got this lab from Flinn and am planning on doing it this spring. I'm just trying to come up with some analysis questions. I figure I can have them time the drop, and make calculations of momentum for each of the balls and things, but then what other questions would you suggest as an analysis?


Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points Nicole, if you do a general search in the Learning Center and use a filter, you can see 81 resources available for you to use. Scan them and see what is useful and exciting to you. Often, it is best to quickly scan resources personally because you may hit on exactly what suits your teaching environment and your method of inquiry. If you wish to search independently, 1. Go to your homepage and click on the words Advanced Search 2. When this page appears, enter your key words, perhaps force and motion 3. hundreds of resources will appear 4. you can filter these resources by using the filter taps in the column on the left side of the page and this will narrow the resources for you 5. As you scan the resources, put the ones that you wish to use in your personal library for future use I hope this is helpful. There are also collections of materials already put together by NSTA for you to peruse as well 1. at the top of the search page you will see a menu entitled Collections Created by NSTA There are 22 collections for you to consider. For example Force and Motion: Middle Collection A collection of resources for middle school teachers on the topic of force and motion. 9 Items based on 1 review Created by Learning Center Online Advisors on 9/30/2010 Try this URL to look at some of the collections ~patty

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

This resource is excellent for preassessment and designing probes Just Rolling Along The purpose of this assessment probe is to elicit ideas about uniform motion. The probe is designed as a starting point to encourage students to use evidence and observation to support their ideas. The goal is for students to eventually develop and then test an operational understanding of the conce... I've also attached several other resources from the LC that you may find useful. ~patty


Just Rolling Along (Book Chapter)

Understanding Force and Motion (Book Chapter)

Acceleration (Book Chapter)

Loren Nomura Loren Nomura 4055 Points

Here are a few files and documents that I use to assess and teach students about forces and motion. Feel free to edit as needed,

Sharon Chern Sharon Chern 2640 Points

Hi Nicole, I've just used some of the computer simulation/animations from the Force & Motion SciPack in my 9th grade basic physics with low math skills. I ask them conceptual questions (no math) based on what they see in the animations. They responded really well to the Roller coaster animation. Others were ok physics-wise, but many students thought they were boring. I'd say try the Roller coaster one first, see if your 7th graders respond to it. You'll find some questions to ask the students right underneath the animation.

Kate Dickinson Kate Dickinson 510 Points

I found an easy way to play with motion and speed by building rollercoaters out of foam pipe insulation and marbles. Home Depot sells 6' foam tubs for approx. $1.50. If you cut the tube long ways and tape them together you'll end up with a 12' track. Everything is pretty easy to setup and they love building the rollercoasters. This lab is just a fun way of getting them to build things, calculate speed and talk about different types of forces (i.e. gravity, normal force, friction). And by giving then challenges like making a track with 2 hills and 1 loop or 2 loops then they can work together to problem solve. They seem to REALLY like building them and they don't put up such a fight when doing the calculations.

Nicole Dainty Nicole Dainty 4360 Points

Thanks for the ideas everyone. Kate - do you happen to have any handouts you give to your students for the rollercoaster lab? That sounds like a great culminating activity. I did use the assessment probe about uniform motion, however I would love to find one that gets at Newton's laws a bit more directly. So far, I have done the "Walk this Way" activity I found here in the Learning Center. I also did a lab on Friction called "Sticky Sneakers" where the kids use spring scales to measure the frictional forces on various gym shoes. Next, I will be doing balloon "rockets" to address Newton's laws of motion.

Sarah Gold Sarah Gold 20 Points

Hi there! I have used the foam insulation roller coasters as a way to introduce students to the concept of potential and kinetic energy and the law of energy conservation. The roller coasters help kids to understand the basics of gravitational potential energy and the amount of kinetic energy that results. In the past, I have let my students experiment with seeing whether or not they can start coaster at a lower height than the highest loop to demonstrate the concept of energy conservation: you only get as much energy out as you put in. Here are some links to resources for doing a roller coaster physics lab: Of course, you can always include a discussion of friction and other forces at play. Students should notice that even if they start their marble at the top of a ramp that dips down and comes back up to the same height their marble won't always make it up to the top of the second hump. This is because energy is lost as heat (due friction, wind resistance, etc.). In this way, roller coasters can also be a good practical application of forces acting on an object on Earth (a.k.a. not in the vacuum of space). Hope this helps!

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Hi Kate, Roller coasters just invite students to make predictions and to learn about motion. Thanks for opening this topic on this thread. Do you have a jpgs of your student projects that you could share and any lessons that you would like to share with readers. There are lessons on the web and in the Annenberg site but often it is really 'cool' to hear from a 'grass roots' teacher who is doing a coaster lab with her students. Please share more when you have the opportunity. It will be much appreciated:} ~patty

Will Kane Will Kane 780 Points

In the past I have a done experiments with the students (elementary)using balloon powered "rocket" cars. The students gather everyday materials, usually trash or recycled items. They then create cars that are powered by the force of the wind that is expelled from the balloons. This forces them (no pun intended) to think about forces (i.e. friction etc)on moving objects and hoe force can be used to propel an object in a variety of ways. I have seen some very creative models, with sails, turbines etc. We culminate by having contests to see whose vehicle can either create the most force or the least amount of friction to travel the farthest. It is a a fun and exciting activity.

Miriam Awachie Miriam Awachie 1390 Points

Hi Will, Thanks for talking about elementary. I am teaching Force and Motion for the first time in 4th Grade so I appreciate your input. Do you have any docs to share? Thanks again. Sincerely, Miriam Awachie

Hey Nicole, I find for a pre-assessment,the best thing to do is keep it brief, interest-sparking and applying to real-life. Questions like: If I drop a penny off the Empire State Building, will it have enough force to kill someone? or If I throw a ball in space, will it travel forever? and questions like that, get the kids interested, discussing and thinking. We re-address them as the topics come up in the unit (f=mxa, air resistance, friction). Hope that helps!

Bill Kuhl Bill Kuhl 2190 Points

I think the mousetrap cars are a great activity and so do a lot of people judging to the number of views for this on my website. Besides what can be learned from the balloon car, you can also learn about leverage. Two simple machines are used in the mousetrap car.

Mousetrap car article...
Bill Kuhl

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

If you haven't had a chance to explore other areas of NSTA's Website - take a look at the weekly column, Blick's Picks that is located under the Publications & Products blue link on NSTA's Home Page!

Every week a video from the worldwide web is highlighted. If your district does not allow classroom access to YouTube,your students will be able to view quality science video clips through our NSTA website!

Bick's Pick for November 28, 2011 is a YouTube video clip of a 120 mph (193 kph) crash test. You would be able to discuss kinetic energy, velocity, and calculate speed through the information provided.

Enjoy your week, Alyce

Sandy Gady Sandy Gady 43175 Points

My favorite post assessment activity is to have students design their own air powered car from 4 lifesavers, one 8 ½ x 11 piece of copy paper, 4 drinking straws, 6 small marshmallows, 2 paperclips, 2 wooden skewers, scissors and 13 cm of masking tape. We have vehicle races where the students have to blow their vehicle a designated distance. They design their “car” in their notebook since they have limited materials. I give them two class periods to complete them, then the race is on. Our race is from one end of my lab tables to the finish line, a distance of approximately 10 feet. Students learn a lot about friction, mass and the design process, but it is absolutely priceless to see kids go to any length to blow their car to become “the winner”. I really enjoy reading their notebook entries when they have to explain not only the system of their car, but the modifications they would make in order for their car to be more successful. I have attached a couple of photos of the kids with their cars.


Brandy Stewart Brandy Stewart 7755 Points

Wow, these are all great resources. I feel like I just hit the jackpot!

LeRoy Attles LeRoy Attles 56550 Points

Brandy You are probably finished with this Unit. However, here are some additional resources that may be helpful!!

NewtonsLawsofMotionResources Collection (6 items)
- User Uploaded Resource
- Journal Article
Kathryn Mattila Kathryn Mattila 2625 Points

These are some really good ideas. I am starting to plan my own physics unit. This has giving me a good starting point.

Bryan Spare Bryan Spare 1530 Points

I would like to have my 6th grade students complete a Science experiment. This is my first year as a science teacher. Anyone have some ideas for a novice Science Teacher? Bryan S.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92326 Points

Hi thread participants! Kate and Nicole, when you started conversing about roller coasters (and using the pipe insulation tracks you can buy at Home Depot type stores), it reminded me of one of the lessons in karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan's Picture-Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children's Books to Guide Inquiry series. Since it is helpful to know about lessons already created with literature connections embedded in them, I thought you might be interested in this particular lesson. The chapter from the book that is about roller coasters is available in the NLC: Roller Coasters.
Even though the lesson and books are written for lower elementary students, I have found that my middle school students enjoy them, too, and seem to 'get' the important concepts at a great depth of understanding when I use them. The lesson is written in the 5 E model and all needed worksheets, formative assessments, etc. are included.
Also, Miriam and Bryan, welcome to the discussion thread! I noticed you both were asking for some ideas for lessons. I think you would also enjoy checking out the ready made inquiry lessons from the Picture-Perfect book series. I created two different collections in the NLC that contains all of the Picture-Perfect book chapters if you are interested. The first collection is called Picture-Perfect Science Book Chapters, Grades 3-6.
The second one is called More Picture Perfect Science Book Chapters. This is the collection that contains the Roller Coasters lesson.

Lori Towata Lori Towata 2825 Points

Carolyn, As an elementary teacher, I really appreciate your willingness to share the collection. I browsed through it and found exactly what I needed for an upcoming lesson on sound! To all others working on roller coasters, I know it's not the end product, but a former colleague once shared the concept of rudimentary roller coasters with the use of the swimming noodles, duct tape and marbles. She actually had her class working together as a team to design a hand-held coaster in her classroom. I wasn't quite brave enough to try it myself, but it could be an initial introductory activity, since it seemed more exploratory than measurable.

Jason Okamoto Jason Okamoto 1090 Points

Hi everyone! I'm excited to be joining this thread as I hit upon some great suggestions and resources immediately. I agree with Lori. I took a look at the chapters that you shared, Carolyn from the Picture Perfect Science books, and they were awesome! I think I need to go buy that book for my own library. I'm not very experienced in teaching physics, so I need all the help I can get. I liked everyone's suggestions and am very impressed with all the activities that were shared. They sound wonderfully engaging and educational. I'm not quite sure if I'm ready for the roller coaster activity, but it sounds like something I'd love to work toward. Keep adding more elementary ideas if you have them please! The more we do "down here" I'm sure it helps all you middle and high school teachers! Mahalo! Jason

Daniel Carroll Dan Carroll 18610 Points

I have a funny little activity about force and acceleration I do with physics and AP physics when we are first engaging in force and acceleration. They have a spring scale (5 or 10N) and a cart. Part I: Students measure the amount of force to pull the cart slowly at a constant velocity. Answer: Not much. Since the cart has very little friction it takes very little force to keep it moving. Students will try and try to read something on the scale. They always write a value, but in the post-activity discussion "Not Much" is the answer and they easily accept that the real answer is Zero. Part II: Students tie a long string to the cart and pull with a constant for of 2 or 3 N (depending on how much space you have) for 3 seconds. Then they have to describe the result. Answer: The result is they can't do it. If you pull a 1kg cart with a force of 2N it will accelerate at 2m/s/s. If you pull for 3 seconds you will have to be moving at 6m/s which is a pretty good clip and they will also need 18m of space to get up to that speed. Even more difficult if you say 3N. It gets entertaining because they are trying to accelerate backwards while looking at the scale... A good conceptual introduction to Newton's second law(actually 1st as well)

Tamara Leong Tamara Leong 1015 Points

Wow! These are all great ideas and resources. We will be starting this unit in a couple of weeks, so I'm pretty excited to present it to my class. Thank you all for sharing!

Charles Kressbach Charles Kressbach 60 Points

Yesterday I did a great lab with my students for Newton's second law of motion. It's a modified version of the lab found in Pearson's Interactive Science. I dubbed it the Drag Race Lab. Basically, after simply overcoming inertia, students tried to make a model car accelerate as fast as possible to beat other students in a drag race over lab tables. They had a ton of fun with it, and by the end they had become very familiar with the relationship among mass, force and acceleration, and they had no idea they were learning! First post, and first year teacher, so forgive me if the formatting isn't the best. I also tend to come up with a lot on the fly, so the lesson differed a bit from what I had originally written, I've tried to include as much as that as possible!


Donna Martin Donna Martin 4025 Points

Have you checked out the NASA site? They have several ideas that can be tied into force and motion. For instance, I have used the rocket guide [url=] to discuss some aspects. The kids love the activities in it and most can be done for very little cost

Charles Kressbach Charles Kressbach 60 Points

Here's a video of a fantastic apparatus for demonstrating inertia.

Donna Martin Donna Martin 4025 Points

Have you tried the NASA site? I have used some of their rocket activities to work on force, motion, propulsion, etc. They have many different activity guides that can tie in with a variety of concepts.

Kathryn Mattila Kathryn Mattila 2625 Points

I feel like I just hit gold. This will help me out a lot. I am just starting to teach forces and need all the help I can get to make it interesting.

Cristina Kelesides Cristina Solis 1355 Points

My students design a roller coaster for a marble. Students need to describe, construct, write, and present how their roller coaster uses motion and forces. The supplies are very simple - marbles, foam tubing, tape. We construct ours against the wall so we don't need independent structural support.

Katherine Martin Katherine Martin 1150 Points

NASA's site for educators is a great resource. I recently took part in a webinar in which students construct card stock "moon carts" to investigate the effect of interaction of force and mass. All you need are straws, card stock and a bicycle pump. Here is the site I uploaded a copy of that activity here


Elizabeth Cooke Elizabeth Cooke 7245 Points

Hello Katherine, Have you tried the Newton Car with your students? I would like to know if you used the instructions as is or modified the activity. How long did it take? - Elizabeth

George Mehler George Mehler 1575 Points

Hi Katherine, I know that this is years old at this point, but I believe that I have a resource that may help you or other teachers looking for a similar idea. Here is a link to the forces and motion playlist on the FunScienceDemos YouTube channel. This has video demonstrations of different activities to do with your students regarding forces and motion. Best, Dr. George Mehler Ed.D., Temple University

Kimberly Jones Kimberly Jones 690 Points

I enjoy using Picture Perfect Lesson to teach Force and Motion.  So many great ideas there.

Haley Owens Haley Owens 430 Points

I found so many great ideas for force and motion on this forum! As a preservice chemistry teacher, most of my classes have been geared toward high school chemistry so finding resources for middle school/physical science units has been more challenging. I look forward to implementing some of these labs and tools in the classroom. 

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