January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Newton’s Laws Rotation Activity

Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Carolyn Peterson

For the chapter on Newton’s Laws, I designed a station-rotation activity following the introductory lesson. The introductory lesson explained the vocabulary, the different laws, and how to draw force diagrams. The rotations were created with the intent of making the subject approachable and relatable for the students. With this shared common experience from this activity, students were able to learn the deeper content in the following lessons by applying it to what they experienced in the rotations. Having a shared prior experience helped with class discussions and helped them relate concrete experiences to the new content. The stations and times are easily modified, but I used the resources I had in my classroom along with the time frame of our 80-minute class cycle. I split the students into seven groups so that only one group was at a station at any one time; then they all cleaned up and rotated simultaneously.

Here is a short video clip of my students in the midst of the activity.

Station 1:

At this station, students have one person sit in each rolling chair holding the end of the rope/scarf. One student just held while the other pulled the rope. Students manipulated variables such as resistance (feet up or down), weights of participants, and magnitude of the force pulling. They then described the results of their manipulations, drew a force diagram, and identified the Newton’s laws involved.

  • Materials = 2 rolling chairs, long rope or scarf

Station 2:

Students set a newspaper open and flat on a tabletop. They place a paint stir stick under the newspaper with about two to three inches sticking out from under it over the edge of the table. They experienced pushing down slowly then quickly karate chopping and then compared the results. They identified the Newton’s laws involved and drew a force diagram.

  • Materials = newspaper, paint stir sticks (if you say you will be using it for education, Home Depot gives you as many as you need for free)

Station 3:

Students raced three different sized balls using air through straws. They set up the three balls on the starting line and all blew at the same time with about the same force. They compared the results, changed the variables, retried, and saw what happened. They identified the Newton’s Laws involved and drew a force diagram.

  • Materials = 3 different sized balls (I had a ping pong, tennis, and bowling ball), straws, taped starting line on the floor
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Station 4:

Here a belt was set up as a curved barrier and a marble was rolled along the inside edge. Students anticipated the path the marble would take on leaving the barrier, tried it, and explored the results. They were encouraged to set up the experiment in other fashions to see if they could change the trajectory. They finished by describing the Newton’s Laws involved and drawing a force diagram.

  • Materials = belt, marble

Station 5:

Here students used a spring scale to see how the force of gravity affects different sized weights. They recorded their findings with at least six different sized weights and graphing the mass vs. weight data and analyzing the slope.

  • Materials = spring scale, various weights

Station 6:

Students referenced their data from station 5 to use the formula for weight to perform calculations.

  • Materials = calculators

Station 7:

This last station was designed to help students see vector addition in action. They used washers and weights at various angles to anticipate and see how the angle between three vectors needs different weights to balance out. My students actually really appreciated this visual and will often refer back to this part of the activity when struggling with vector addition later in the year.

  • Materials = vector addition force table, weights/washers, electronic scale

Click here for a PDF worksheet for this activity.

Carolyn Peterson is a physics teacher at Lutheran High School of Orange County and was invited to write for CCS by CSTA President Laura Henriques

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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