Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-12, students watch the BrainPOP movie Forces to learn about what force is and how forces, such as gravity, friction, and air resistance, affect movement. Then students apply their understanding of forces and motion by conducting an experiment in which they drop eggs with different-sized parachutes and predict the results. Students share their outcomes with the class.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Brainstorm what they know about force.
  2. Use the Make-a-Map tool to identify how force affects movement.
  3. Conduct an experiment to test how air resistance slows a falling object and share their outcomes.

Materials:

Vocabulary:

magnitude, vector, friction, velocity, acceleration, gravity

Preparation:

 
  • Preview the movie Forces to plan for adaptations.
  • If lesson time is limited, cut out three squares (10”x10”, 20”x20”, and 30”x30”) from the trash bags for each small group.
  • Print out Cause and Effect graphic organizer (one per student)

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Ask students what they think causes things to move. They should recognize that force causes things to move. Younger students may not know this term, so you can explain that force is a push or a pull that affects an object’s motion. You can even demonstrate by pulling or pushing something.
  2. Display the Cause and Effect graphic organizer on the whiteboard. Ask students what causes motion to speed up. Write “speed up” in the first effect box on the upper right side. Write students responses in the first cause box on the upper left side. These may include gravity and acceleration or words to describe these concepts. Now ask what causes movement to slow down. Write “slow down” in the lower effect box. Write responses in the cause box. These may include friction, drag, and air resistance or other words that describe these concepts.  
  3. Tell students that today they will watch a movie that explores the concept of force and how it affects motion. Explain that using what they learn, they will work in small groups to conduct an experiment about air resistance, a type of force.
  4. Show the movie Forces on the whiteboard to the whole class once through without pausing.
  5. Next, if you have access to multiple computers, divide the class into pairs and have them open the Make-a-Map feature on individual computers. (Note: If limited access to computers, pairs can do this step offline using the Fishbone Graphic Organizer).
  6. Pairs watch the movie again within the Make-a-Map feature. As they watch, tell them to create concept maps identifying how force affects movement,pausing the movie as needed. Remind them that they can incorporate clips from the movie into their maps. When they are done, have each pair share their maps with another pair to ensure that they captured all the information.
  7. Have each pair team up with another pair to conduct an air resistance egg drop experiment. Provide each group with a trash bag (or squares if you’ve cut them in advance), scissors, a ruler, three eggs, and three plastic bags. If you’ve not pre-cut the squares, have groups cut out different sized squares from the trash bag: 10”x10”, 20”x20”, and 30”x30”.
  8. Instruct the groups make three parachutes by tying a piece of string to the corners of each square and tying the other ends of the strings to a sandwich bag. Have them put one egg in each bag.
  9. Have students predict which egg has the greatest chance of landing from a 10 foot drop without breaking. Have students explain why they believe this.
  10. Now have groups test their predictions by dropping each egg parachute a distance of 10 feet from the floor. After groups have dropped all three of their parachutes, have groups discuss what happened. Ask them what forces were at work and how they affected the parachutes’ motion. Have them contrast the largest parachute from the smaller ones.
  11. Listen in as students discuss their experiments. Make sure that they recognize that gravity was the force that pulled the egg parachutes down causing them to accelerate, and air resistance was the force opposing gravity. They should know from the movie that when the air resistance equaled the gravity it caused the parachutes stopped accelerating and continue falling at a constant velocity.
  12. Bring groups together. Have each group share their results, including their prediction. They will discover that the bigger the parachute the more air resistance it creates causing it slow down earlier.

Extension Activities:

Watch footage of a roller coaster and answer the questions about the forces at work in this Primary Source activity. Complete the Force Worksheet about acceleration and overall motion.