One of the most engaging subjects to teach is science. There is just something about hands-on science activities in an elementary classroom. They can be so fun and fascinating for young learners! Teaching force and motion is particularly fun because I like to do some activities with my students so they can see science in action.
Instead of sitting and listening to an explanation and doing worksheets, students are so much more engaged when they get to really dig in and find the answers themselves.
Here are my favorite force and motion activities
1. Center of Gravity
Ever wonder if you can balance on one foot standing against the wall? This activity is so much fun and can be done in the classroom or at home. Just follow this procedure.
Step 1: Stand up straight with your right foot and your right shoulder against the wall.
Step 2: Try to move your left leg without falling or taking a step.
Step 3: Now stand straight and touch the wall with your left foot and keep your left shoulder pressed against the wall.
Step 4: Try to lift or move your right leg.
In order to stand straight with your right foot and right shoulder touching the wall, your left leg has to push against the floor. This is necessary in order to move the upper body and your right shoulder against the wall. Because of the strain in your left leg, it is impossible to move it away.
If forced by someone else, you will fall towards the left, mainly because the center of gravity of your body is on the left side of your right foot, which would be the only support.
In order not to fall, your center of gravity should be located exactly above the pivot point or support – in this case: your feet. After your left leg is knocked away, your body needs to move towards the right in order not to fall, but the wall prevents this.
2. Center of Mass
Step 1: Tear off a piece of cardboard.
Step 2: Place two holes in the cardboard using the hole puncher anywhere on the cardboard.
Step 3: Bend one paperclip so it has two hooks. Tie the paperclip around the center of the string so that there is about 6 inches of string hanging from both sides. Tie the end of the string onto the other paperclip.
Step 4: Tape the paperclip on the end of the string to a table or wall.
Step 5: Hang the cardboard from the center paperclip and allow the string to hang straight down. Trace where the string intersects the cardboard. Repeat this with the other hole.
Step 6: Place your finger where the lines intersect and balance the cardboard on your finger.
The center of mass is easy to find if the shape is a simple shape like a circle, square, or rectangle. You can find this with a ruler by dividing the length and width in half. Then, when you hang the rectangle from a hole on its edge, the string will always pass through this point, regardless of which hole you use.
It’s much harder to predict the center of mass for an irregular shape, the same principle holds true. Regardless of what point you hang the irregular shape from, the string will always pass through the center of mass. So, if you hang it from two or more points, you can find the intersection of these lines – and that is the center of mass.
For more activities related to Magic Paper and Center of Gravity, check out my post here!
3. Experiment with Friction
This experiment is so much fun. Students get to test rolling an object down a slope using different surface materials. This can be anything from aluminum foil to a towel, etc.
Step 1: Use a foam board or piece of cardboard. Place one end on a stack of books so that the board is slanted.
Step 2: Cover the board with a fabric or material. You can choose aluminum foil, towel, paper, bubble wrap, etc.
Step 3: Place a car at the top of the hill. Release the car and measure the time it takes for the car to reach the bottom of the hill.
Step 4: Repeat the process with a different material on the board. Which material did the car roll the fastest down? Which material did the car roll the slowest down?
Friction is what causes the car to roll fast or slow. Since the only thing that changed in this experiment was the material on the board, you’re able to determine which material caused the most friction. Friction is the resistance to motion of one object moving relative to another.
Therefore, in our case the car moved slower on the towel than it did on the board, so the towel caused more friction than the board. Since there was less friction on the board, the car moved faster.
Want some more force and motion activities? Check out my Force and Motion Unit Bundle here!
If you are distance learning and looking for ways to make your science lessons more fun, check out my post here on how to add YouTube videos to your Google Slides.
What are your favorite science activities to do with your class? Let me know in the comments!