Newton's Apples - Day One

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Students will observe Newton's Laws in Action.

Big Idea

Students will learn about Newton's Laws, G-Forces, and Motion.

RAP - Review and Preview

15 minutes

I call students to the gathering area to introduce our new physics unit. I tell them that we will be learning a little history and science today. We will be exploring the work of Sir Isaac Newton.

I ask students if they can tell me anything about this person. Usually, some students are very knowledgeable about him and can explain that he discovered gravity and can sometimes explain his laws. Many students have no idea who he is. So, this is a fun little history snippet to start with.

I like to start this lesson with a video about Isaac Newton. There are many of them out there on or However, my favorite is:

A BrainPop video at:

If you don’t have access to BrainPop, you might try:

Students are usually engaged by the end of the video and want to learn more about this guy who noticed apples falling off trees.

I tell them that they will investigating the laws of physics that Sir Newton discovered, in our class investigations today.

Guided Investigation

45 minutes

These activities can be done in a centers-style learning environment. Students can work in groups and rotate around the room. I also use this time for students to sit at their desks and create their unit cover page in their science notebooks. This alleviates some of the congestion at the investigation tables and creates another rotation for students.

Inertia (Newton’s First Law) Investigations:

I learned these inertia challenges at a great teacher workshop. They were great fun as an adult, so I love to do them with my students as well. Usually they get it faster than us old teachers did!

Spinning Eggs

Prepare a question for the raw egg spin. Place it under a flap on the table so students do not look at it until after the investigation and it is a leading question:

What did not stop spinning inside the spinning raw egg?

  1. Provide students with two eggs, one hardboiled and one raw.
  2. Students spin both of them on their wider end.
  3. Which spins longer?
  4. Students spin the hardboiled egg sideway.
  5. Stop the egg and then let it go.
  6. What did the egg do?
  7. Students repeat this experiment with their raw egg and observe.
  8. What did the egg do? Why?
  9. Students complete their data sheet and answer the mystery question that I prepare under a flap so they do not look at it before the investigation.

Money Going Nowhere

Students should place a 3” x 5” file card on a drinking glass. Place a quarter in the center of the card. Students flick their finger to move the card quickly across the glass. Students should observe what the quarter does.

Break A Ruler…Yes, You Have Permission!

Students place a plastic ruler under five pieces of newspaper.

  1. The ruler should stick out from the edge of the table about 5 inches.
  2. Have students hit the ruler fast.
  3. Students observe the results (if the ruler is hit hard enough, it will break and the newspaper will hold the ruler down).

NOTE: Leave a note for students, that tells them that you will be doing the inertia demonstration of all time at the end of this lesson…stay tuned!

Acceleration (Newton’s Second Law) Investigation:

Catch That Ruler

Students will test their reaction time against gravity. It’s brains and synapses against the G-Force!

  1. Students will work in pairs.
  2. One student will hold his/her pointer finger and thumb in an open pincer grip over the edge of the table.
  3. The other students will hold a ruler vertically between the fingers.
  4. Without warning the second student will drop the ruler.
  5. The first student will try to grab the ruler, with thumb and pointer finger, as it falls.
  6. Students will run three trials and take the median score. Record the score as the number of inches of the ruler that falls before the fingers grab it.
  7. Students fill in their observation sheet and answer questions.

Action and Reaction (Newton’s Third Law) Investigations:

Balloon Rockets

  1. Students will blow up a balloon to almost maximum size.
  2. Students will tape a 2-inch section of a large-mouthed straw (like from McDonalds) to the neck to act like a nozzle.
  3. Students hold the rocket over their heads and let it go (towards an empty space in the room).
  4. Students make observations of what happens on their data sheets.

Table-Top Newton’s Cradle

Tape two yard-sticks onto a table top, just wide enough apart to roll large marbles or ball bearings between them without sideways movement.

Place ten marbles/ball bearings in the “track”.

Have students try variations of moving the marbles/ball bearings.

See handout attached.


Wrap Up

5 minutes

I call students to the gathering area and tell them that we will wrap up this lesson and talk about our observations during our next lesson. I will also do the inertia demonstration at the beginning of the next lesson… I say this to stir up some anticipation and excitement for the next lesson.