Exhibition Day 1: Creating An Explanation of Projectile Motion

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Students create a poster that demonstrates their understanding of two-dimensional kinematics.

Big Idea

Trigonometry is an important tool for understanding projectile motion.


This lesson follows a series of lessons where students:

  • define a projectile as an object moving solely under the influence of gravity
  • make connections between trigonometric identities and the components of a projectile's velocity
  • investigate the independent vertical and horizontal motions of a projectile
  • predict the parabolic trajectory of a projectile 
  • extend Galileo's equations of motion to create models for the maximum height, time of flight and range of a projectile
  • compare two mathematical models for a projectile's range

Within this lesson, students gather information from various media and sources while using trigonometric identities, equations of motion and Pythagorean theorem to solve problems related to a projectile's motion. The goal of this lesson is for students to create a poster that demonstrates their understanding of projectile motion. This lesson addresses the RI.11-12.7 and HSG-SRT.C.8 standards as a way to effectively compose a multi-component projectile motion project.  

Students research concepts related to projectile motion using the NGSS Practices of Using Mathematical and Logical Reasoning (SP5) and Constructing Explanations (SP6) within a projectile motion project. Students begin creating a museum exhibit that includes a poster, a 2D/3D artifact, and a digital artifact.  I assess student understanding throughout the lesson using informal check-ins and assess each student's work at the end of the school day. I want students to learn to integrate information from various points of this course into a coherent projectI ask students to look for and take note of more direct connections between the factors from this week's lessons and the presentation they are constructing during the next few lessons. 


Creating A Game Plan

20 minutes

During this section, I spend the first few minutes distributing a handout with the criteria for the projectile motion project. For the first 5 minutes of  this portion of the lesson, students read and choose from the available projectile motion project options.

The options include:

  • A mini textbook
  • A graphic novel
  • A physical model
  • A flip-book
  • Student choice

Students work in pairs for the next ten minutes to create a Game Plan, essentially a learning agreement that students create that identifies:

  • The project they will be creating
  • The resources they will need to create the project
  • The appropriate dates for student-teacher checkpoints
  • The final date for rehearsals
  • A cutoff date for qualification for the physics performance-based assessment oral defense 

Students complete, sign the game plan and get approval for each portion of the project before the end of this section of the lesson. Students focus on the NGSS Cross-Cutting Concept of Systems and Models while they illustrate their understanding of two-dimensional kinematics within this project. I circulate and address any puzzles students have.

Creating A Cohesive Project On Projectile Motion

45 minutes

I introduce this section of the lesson by asking students to write everything that comes to mind when the hear the word "museum". Student responses included: "Art", "Slick", "History", "Lots of information", and "Cool". I remind students that communicating information in an easy-to-understand way, like creating a museum exhibit, is an essential skill for scientists. Student game plans focus on creating a museum exhibit that includes a poster, a 2D/3D artifact, and a digital artifact. Some students opt to work on a single part of the exhibit during this part of the lesson. Other students divvy up the work and one partner may work on creating a graphic novel while the other partner works on creating a poster.

Student pairs work to create a museum quality project, of their choice from the previous section, on projectile motion. I give students access the resource station and a tri-fold presentation board. The front resource station holds equipment in labeled drawers or containers and includes scissors, rulers, meter sticks, washers, colored pencils, markers, dry erase markers, string, whiteboards, multiple sized unlined paper and highlighters. Meanwhile, I project the requirements for student exhibits on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. 

Once we have discussed the requirements for the exhibits and all of the materials have been distributed to each group, students begin working in pairs at a location of their choice to implement their gameplans. I circulate the classroom using the Uninterrupted Time Strategyto answer questions students have about the projectile motion exhibit.

This is a long term project that students spend a lot of independent time completing. Over the next several class periods I include checkpoints to revisit student progress toward completing their museum exhibits. Within 10 days, students present this project. Although I provide some classroom time for this project, students are required to do independent work as well. Click here and here to see examples of completed student work.

At the end of this section, I pause and ask students to label their exhibit components, and return the materials they used during this section to the front resource station. A resource manager returns each material to a bin or labeled drawer so that they are readily available the next time the materials are needed.


10 minutes

The closing activity asks students to create a summary that illustrates the most important and the most challenging portions of the lesson. I ask students to answer the question,"What were the most important and challenging portions of today's lesson?" in their notebooks: 

This type of closure activity asks students to depict their inner thoughts and the underlying reasons connected to those thoughts. Click here to see an example of student work. I collect and grade student responses at the end of the day. I use the information that I read to make decisions about which portions to reteach or revisit during the beginning of the next class.