Physical Science: Forces and Gravity Teacher s Guide

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1 Teacher s Guide Grade Level: 6 8 Curriculum Focus: Physical Science Lesson Duration: 3 4 class periods Program Description Sir Isaac Newton was quite the guy, devising the theory of gravity and specifying the three laws of motion. Forces affect everyone and everything, but no one had defined them until Newton. One of the factors that can affect objects in motion is friction. It s easy to understand how friction between a door and its hinge can make the door more difficult to open. It s more difficult to understand how air creates friction, called drag, and slows down everything from butterflies, to people, to airplanes. Gravity isn t just an Earth phenomenon. It s the force that holds stars in their galaxies and planets in orbit around stars. We ve learned to use gravity and the forces of motion to keep satellites aloft and airplanes in the air. To do the latter, we took a lesson from the birds. The shape of an airplane wing mimics that of a bird s wing. It s the shape of an airfoil, and the way air moves across it causes lift. Nowhere can you be more keenly aware of gravity and motion than at an amusement park. There, gravity and centrifugal force can make for a wild ride. Discussion Questions Who is credited with discovering gravity? Define gravity. What are Newton s three laws of motion? Define inertia. What is friction and how does it affect motion? How is gravity important in space? Describe how a plane s wings help it fly. What are two forces that affect those who go on amusement park rides such as roller coasters and rides that spin? Lesson Plan Student Objectives Be able to define gravity and the three laws of motion. Understand the accomplishments and contributions of Sir Isaac Newton. Plan a Newton Fest to celebrate and learn more about Newton s discoveries.

2 Teacher s Guide 2 Materials Computer with Internet access Print resources about forces and motion Various materials to create exhibits, demonstrations, and other items connected to Newton Fest Procedures 1. Any study of gravity and forces should begin with a closer look at the man who defined them. What students may not know is that Newton made many other contributions to science and mathematics. Among his other accomplishments, he developed differential calculus. He confirmed Kepler s laws of planetary motion. He realized that light is made up of particles, and that the spectrum of colors is present in white light. All this at a time when many still thought Earth was the center of the universe. Newton s life and discoveries are worth celebrating, and in the process students will learn more about the man and the science. 2. Rather than just preparing a report on Newton, students will plan and create Newton Fest, a fun celebration. Think of it as a classroom or school fair that highlights Newton s life and work. The fest can be as simple or elaborate as you like, but should feature these aspects: Explanation of universal gravity, with demonstrations of some of gravity s properties Explanation of the three laws of motion, along with demonstrations that illustrate them A brief tutorial on calculus with a few examples of Newton s calculations and some for fairgoers to try for themselves A biography of Newton s life, including the titles and synopses of some of his most important writings and a summary of how Newton s work advanced science Optional displays you may wish to assign include demonstrations of the light spectrum and a review of Kepler s laws of planetary motion and how Newton helped confirm them. 3. Divide your class into groups to research and devise displays for each of the subject areas listed above. Encourage students to be creative in developing the fest displays. The more graphics and hands-on activities, the better. And let them have fun. How about putting out some refreshments for fest goers? Apple juice or candied apples, anyone? 4. These pages offer plenty of information to get students started: BBC s Historic Figures: Sir Isaac Newton ( ) Cambridge University Library s Footprints of the Lion The Newton Project: Newton s Life and Work at a Glance

3 Teacher s Guide 3 New York Public Library s Newtonian Moment Wikipedia s Isaac Newton 5. To help students devise demonstrations, refer to the Discovery lesson plans listed below in Support Materials. There you will find activities that examine gravity, forces, and the laws of motion. A listing of numerous online demonstrations and animations is at the emints Physics page Force and Motion at 6. Once the groups have finished their research and put together their displays, let the fest begin! Everyone should have a chance to visit each display and try each demonstration. Assessment Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson. Vocabulary 3 points: Students were highly engaged in class discussions; conducted thorough research and created a creative, informative display. 2 points: Students participated in class discussions; conducted adequate research and created a good display. 1 point: Students participated minimally in class discussions; conducted minimal research and did not create a very informative display. airfoil Definition: A shape, like that of a bird s wing, that channels air in a way that creates lift Context: Airplane wings are airfoils. centrifugal force Definition: A force that pulls a rotating object away from what it is rotating around Context: As the swings on a spinning carnival ride go faster, centrifugal force pushes the swings farther from the center. friction Definition: The force that resists motion between two objects that touch each other Context: Friction between Earth s atmosphere and the space shuttle cause the spacecraft s exterior to reach more than 2,000 degrees upon reentry. gravity Definition: The natural force of attraction between objects Context: Earth s gravity pulls everything toward the ground and gives objects weight.

4 Teacher s Guide 4 inertia Definition: The tendency of an object to resist changes in its state of motion Context: Inertia keeps a stationary object from moving or a moving object from stopping or changing course until it is acted on by an outside force. lift Definition: The force that raises an aircraft or bird because of air pressure around the wing shape Context: Airplane engines provide the energy to move a plane fast enough to achieve lift; a bird s lift comes from wing muscles. Academic Standards National Academy of Sciences The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K 12. To view the standards, visit this Web site: This lesson plan addresses the following national standards: Physical Science: Motions and forces Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K 12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit This lesson plan addresses the following national standards: Science: Physical Sciences Understands forces and motion Language Arts: Viewing Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media; Writing Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process, Gathers and uses information for research purposes; Reading Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts Support Materials Develop custom worksheets, educational puzzles, online quizzes, and more with the free teaching tools offered on the Discoveryschool.com Web site. Create and print support materials, or save them to a Custom Classroom account for future use. To learn more, visit

5 Teacher s Guide 5 Also find more Discovery lesson plans devoted to forces and gravity online: Gravity Gets You Down Force Counterforce Forces and Motion Motion, Forces, Energy, and Electricity The following Discovery lesson plans are geared toward upper elementary students, but are good sources of experiments that students might use in creating their demonstrations. Forces Introduction to Physical Science Rules of Forces and Motion

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