Exploring Force and Motion

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SWBAT explore what they can do with balls, cars, marbles, and ramps and document findings in their science journals.

Big Idea

Students will spend time using a variety of materials that will be used during this unit. This will engage their curiosity, allow them to make self discoveries, and explore self interests.

Setting the Stage

1 minutes

Advanced Preparation:  

You will need:


*Ping Png Balls

*Matchbox cars

*Super Balls


*Styrofoam Chutes

*Plastic Race Car Track

*Science Notebooks

 Before I get into this unit, I want the students to explore their interests/ideas. I introduce and lay out the materials in one general location of the classroom.  The students gather on the carpet for the Engage portion of the lesson.They are then be able to spread out around the room for the explore portion of the lesson. The group gathers back on the carpet for a science circle discussion (explain section). The lessons end with the students explaining what they learned from their explorations.

This lesson is meant to engage the students natural curiosity of force and motion and allow them to spend time with "interesting materials" before being directed to use them in more structured activities.  I use this approach with first and second graders with most of the items/tools that they are introduced to throughout the course of the year.  I find that by giving them time to explore on their own, eliminates the need to explore when materials are used again.

NOTE:  Our district is transitioning to the NGSS.  Although we are implementing some of the units this year, I am still required to teach units that have now been assigned to other grade levels. This unit is one of those units that has been affected by the shifts in grade levels.  I continue to teach this unit because it focuses on the National Science Standard (K-4) B.  "As students describe and manipulate objects by pushing or pulling, throwing, dropping, and rolling, they also begin to focus on the the position and movement of objects."  

It is important that students understand that "the position and motion of an object can be changed by pushing or pulling.  The size of the change is related to the strength of the push or pull."  Establishing this knowledge base will prepare them for 3rd grade when the NGSS requires them to apply concepts of force and motion into their learning (3-PS2).


10 minutes

"I would like you to look at all of the materials that are laid out on the big table.  Today you are going to get a chance to use these materials.  You will be able to work in groups of two (one group of three if you have an odd amount) and explore what you can do with the items.  As you explore, I would like you to use your science notebooks to record your findings and document what you did with the materials.  

Let's start by setting up our science notebooks for today's entry.  Who can tell me what we do first?" 

Students may use the science notebook anchor chart that was created during the first unit of the year.  The students follow the format of writing the dat and the focus in the upper corner of the page.

"Today's focus will be 'exploring items in motion.'  As you are exploring today, I want you to think about this question; 'What can you do with those items to make the balls and cars move?'  I will be coming around to see what you are exploring and discovering.  It is important that you document your observations and learning in your science notebook. 

I want you to team up with a partner and get started.  You may have to share the boards with other groups.  There are enough chutes and tracks that you will not have to share those with other groups."  


25 minutes

"Once you have a partner, I would like you to get your materials and find a spot to work.  Don't forget to record your findings in your science notebook.  As you are working, I will come around and check in on your explorations.  I may also ask you some questions about your work."

The students will spread out throughout the room.  It is important to help kids focus on recording their observations and not just exploring with the materials.  Since it is so early in the year and the materials are "fun", some students may lose focus with the written portion of this task.  I circulate throughout the explore time and challenge students thinking with "I wonder questions."  By asking these questions, I am getting at Science and Engineering Practice 1.  The students are asked questions based on observations to find out more information about the designed world.  Examples would be, I wonder what would happened if you raised the ramp a little bit and then let the car go down it?  Although this is a chance for them to explore and investigate their own ideas, the questions I ask will help them with "investigative questions."  These questions will be based on the explorations that they decide to try on their own.  In order to establish what "group/partner work" should look like, it is key to give them feedback in the moment.  By praising specifics, I can reinforce expected norms and create the learning culture that I am seeking.

This meets the Vermont Science Standards of S1-2:19 & S1-2:7:Developing a reasonable explanation based upon observations (e.g., I found out..).

I have included two examples (Explaining the Boost & Questioning During the Explore Time) of interviews that I conducted with the students during the explore time.


10 minutes

"I would like everyone to clean up their work area, put all of the materials back, and meet me on the carpet.  You should bring your science notebook and chair to sit in."  You should make a circle with your chairs and get ready for science circle."

Science circle is the discussion circle that I have at the end of most of my science lessons.  The purpose of this is to create a discussion circle that is moderated by me but filled with student voice. Their discussions will be based on evidence from their observations.  This will happen through the use of their work in their notebooks as proof of what they are stating.  In other words, the students are not just talking about feelings or beliefs but about proven results, data, and/or experiences. I have included two clips to that demonstrate this discussion.  The First is a student making a claim and using her notes to support what she did and the Second is a clip of the wrap up discussion from science circle.  I have also included a photo of the student's (girl who presented in the first clip) notebook entry.

In this situation, the students are describing how specific images support a scientific or engineering idea through the use of diagrams (not all will use diagrams).  They are also communicating clearly the ideas and methods that they have generated.  Science and Engineering Practice 8

"I would like you to look at your notebook entries for today.  I am going to ask you to share what you learned but I want you to prove it by using the information that you recorded in your notebooks.  For example, if I just set a car on the floor and it don't move, I could talk about that but I would also have to show you proof or explain the proof to you." 


5 minutes

"I would like to end today's lesson by writing down two things that you learned/discovered today.  You should write them in your science notebook.  This can be something you found on your own or that you learned from a classmate.  You can use words, pictures, or both.  When you are done, I would like you to bring me your notebook."

This task allows me to informally see what students got out of today's lesson and also continue to practice the use of recording knowledge or observations.  

I have included two other notebook entries (ER's entry & I learned statement) that also have each students "I learned" statement.  These are examples of what I am hoping to see from my students after this lesson.


1 minutes

I look through their notebooks to see how students recorded their work, what they discovered today and what they got out of today's activity.  I want to see if students found ways to make the cars and balls move, how they recorded it, and/or if they were abel to be detailed with their diagrams or explanations.