Physics Lesson Plans

Check it out ... PBS Kids - Design Squad for ideas to address STEM concepts in your curriculum! Visit the Parents & Educators area for lesson plans and activity ideas!

Lessons
Simply Machines - Rube Goldberg Project (Student worksheet provided)
Newton's Challenge (Student worksheets provided)
Speed Machines (Student worksheet provided)
Speed Challenge (Student worksheet provided)
Bubble Gum Physics (Student worksheet provided)
Hot Wheelin' Physics (Student worksheet provided)
Acceleration Lab (Student worksheet provided)

Internet Lessons

Physics Scavenger Hunt (pdf)- Explore the world of physics using sites from the Kid Zone. Thanks to Jennifer Hladun for providing an answer key.

Simple Machines - Students explore several websites to learn about simple machines. The first page may be used by itself for a shorter lesson or combined with the second page for a longer one. All the sites are listed on Simple Machines page the Kid Zone.

Junk Box Wars - Building Big (pdf) - I have my students explore the Building Big website (listed on the Physics Links page of the Kid Zone) before completing the Junk Box Wars projects, such as Super Structures or Bridge Challenge. Visit the Junk Box Wars page for more information and links to the Junkyard Wars area of the Discovery School website.

Moving Man (pdf) - Your students will enjoy exploring this site to learn more about speed and acceleration.  A "mini" worksheet is also available. 

Several energy related internet lessons exploring energy sources, fossil fuels, and more are available on the Earth Science page!

Note For Teachers: Please take time to preview the links on any Internet assignment before you use it with your students. With the ever-changing nature of the Internet, links may be become broken or websites are no longer available. If you find a problem, please send me an e-mail.

Looking for a project for the Olympics? Try Project Winter Bobsled!

Need project ideas for technological design?
Visit The Science Club page for ideas! Don't miss the Junk Box Wars projects!

Also available ... Lesson Plan Links for Physics
Links to my favorite online resources for lesson plans, activities, and worksheets.

Need Adobe Acrobat to view the worksheets on this site? Visit the Adobe site for details!

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Simply Machines - A Rube Goldberg project (T.(Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)

This project is an excellent addition to any simple machines unit! Teachers have the option to tailor the assignment to fit their student's grade/ability level. For some of my classes, I require them only to draw the design labeled from start to finish. In advanced classes, students are challenged to design and build the device. Science Olympiad offers a Mission Possible event that requires students to take this idea even further with a host of requirements and limitations.

The task to complete can be as simple as turning on a light bulb or as complex as fixing a meal. The students must use at least 3 different types of simple machines to accomplish the task. Each step must be labeled and described from start (a) to finish (b).

Background: Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist (New York Post) that became famous for drawing very complicated machines that performed very simple tasks. A typical Rube Goldberg device could not perform a job as straightforward as turning on a faucet without the assistance of pulleys, fulcrums, mousetraps, cables, and gears. By the time the cartoonist retired, the term “Rube Goldbergian” had been enshrined in the language to describe anything characterized by excess complexity. For more information, check out the Official Rube Goldberg site.

Student Worksheet: Simply Machines

 

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Newton's Challenge (T.(Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)

Newton's 1st Law Lab
In this basic (and less costly) version of the "pull the tablecloth" magic trick, I use standard clothespin taped to film vials filled with sand. You will need to prepare the stand apparatus, gather a few pennies, and make "platforms". For the platforms, cut 2 small circles (4 -5 inches in diameter) from index cards. Attach a 10 cm strand of fishing line to the edge of one circle with tape and leave the last one plain.

First, students are instructed to balance a penny on a circle with a string on top of the clothespin. The challenge is to pull the circle out from under the penny to leave it balanced on the pencil. Second, students need to place the penny on top of a plain circle (no string) on the pencil. This time they should use their finger to "flick" the index card circle out from under the penny leaving it balanced on the pencil. Third, the challenge is to balance the penny and circle on the end of the a finger. The student should try to flick the index card circle out from under the penny to leave it balanced on their finger.

Newton's 2nd Law Lab
For this experiment, students set up simple ramps (between 20 - 30 cm in height) using books and three meter sticks (side by side) taped together. The students experiment with varying amounts of mass (washers) to determine the distance the car will roll. I use toy cars (a little larger than Hot Wheels) and 3/8 inch washers. Complete instructions can be found on the student worksheet. You can also challenge the students to conduct experiment with different ramp heights while keeping the mass constant.

Newton's 3rd Law Lab
Students use straws and balloons to investigate Newton's 3rd Law. By experimenting with several variations (angles), students construct their own understanding of this law. Complete instructions can be found on the student worksheet.

Student Worksheets: Newton's Challenge Lab (pdf)

 

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Speed Machines (T.(Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)

In this activity, students relate speed to some of the fastest machines on Earth. Students solve problems related to fast cars, boats, trains, and airplanes. The second half of the activity related speed to their own world as they computer the time it would take for each vehicle to travel a specific distance (i.e. from Havana, IL to Springfield, IL.)

Student Worksheet: Speed Machines (pdf)

 Also available ... Thanks to Jennifer Bertolino for sharing her cube version of the Speed Machines worksheet. It is a PowerPoint file, so you can edit the faces of the cube to make your own challenges.

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Speed Challenge (T.(Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)

Challenge your students with this fun activity exploring speed! Students work together to collect data related to distance and time for four tasks: hopping, walking backwards, walking (regular rate), and speed walking. They use the data to calculate speeds for each task and solve related problems. We also discuss the variables that would affect their experiment and determine if their results are accurate and reliable.

Student Worksheet: Speed Challenge (pdf)

 

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Bubble Gum Physics (T.(Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)

My students love this experiment involving bubble gum, speed, and acceleration. Since gum is not allowed in our school, the kids love the opportunity to chew gum in class and learn at the same time.

For the first part of the experiment, students use a timer to determine the number of "chomps" they can make in 10 seconds. The data they collect is used to calculate their chomping speed and make predictions for different amounts of time, such as 5 minutes or 1 day. During the second part of the experiment, students collect data about their chomping power and use the information to investigate speed as well as acceleration. For an added challenge, I allow the students to create an experiment involving bubble gum and give them the opportunity to investigate.

Student Worksheet: Bubble Gum Physics (pdf)

Also try the Bubble Gum Trivia Challenge (pdf) - Includes an answer key!

Also explore Invention of Bubble Gum (Facts/info/links) -http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/story084.htm

 

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Hot Wheelin' Physics (T.(Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)

During this lab, students investigate the motion of toy cars. They may use Hot Wheel cars, wind-up cars, or remote control vehicles. To perform the tests, create a "race track" and position five students armed with stop watches at various points along the track. I use a 5 meter track with students at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 meter positions. As the car passes each point, the students should record the time in their data charts.

Once the three trials are complete, we head back to the classroom and use the data collected to analyze the speed of the vehicle between various points and overall speed. Students use the data to create graphs and analyze the reliability of their experiment. The main challenges we face during this lab are keeping the car on the track, making sure it travels the complete distance, and making accurate time readings. These are points for discussion as we determine if our tests are reliable.

Student Worksheet: Hot Wheelin' Physics (pdf)

Also try - Speed and Acceleration Practice (pdf) - A worksheet with problems related to speed and acceleration!

 

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Acceleration Lab (T.(Trimpe) Tomm, Havana Junior High, Havana, IL)

What is acceleration? Before making accelerometers (see worksheet), I asked students for a definition of acceleration and gave them a mini quiz on acceleration that consisted of examples of acceleration and deceleration. Instead of going over the answers right away, I had the students hold on to the quizzes until after they had a chance to experiment with their homemade accelerometers.

We used index cards, string, and washers to make simple accelerometers. I gave the students time to experiment with their new devices in the hallway. They were able to observe that the washer moved when they slowed down or increased their speed as well as when they changed directions. After they had mastered keeping the accelerometer steady so they would be sure to make accurate measurements (observations) at all times, I told them to take the accelerometers home and experiment some more. They had to write down 2-3 observations to share with their classmates.

At the start of the next class, the students had a chance to share their observations in small groups (3-4 minutes). I asked one person in each group to share a few of the observations with the entire class. Many of the students observed the same things (usually related to a car or bus ride), but some of the kids took the assignment to heart and tried the accelerometers with a swivel chair, climbing stairs, etc. After the discussion, students had an opportunity to "fix" their quizzes before we went over the correct answers.

Student Worksheet: Accelerometers (pdf)

 

The Wave Excercise (Marc Bonem, Santa Fe, NM, 2011)
Explore wave motion and related concepts with this human version of the "wave". 

Activity Directions:  Wave Excercise (pdf)

 

Need more ideas? Visit my Lesson Plan Links page!

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Activities, lessons, & worksheets available on any page of this web site are intended for use by a single teacher in his/her classroom or to share at educational conferences. Reproduction for commercial use or profit is not permitted without the express written consent of Mrs. Tracy (Trimpe) Tomm. Visit my Frequently Asked Questions page for more details!