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Series Info

Episodes: 8

Length: 60 min.

Grade Levels:
Professional Development


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Science in Focus: Force and Motion

Explore science concepts in force and motion and come away with a deeper understanding that will help you engage your students in their own explorations. With science and education experts as your guides, learn more about gravity, friction, air resistance, magnetism, and tension through activities, discussions, and demonstrations. Extensive footage shot in real classrooms shows students learning and building on ideas as they explore the relationships among motion, force, size, mass, and speed.

Episode Guide

1. Making an Impact—What would happen if an asteroid were to hit the surface of the earth? How large a crater would the impact create? In this workshop, the ideas of force and motion are introduced, as seventh-grade students drop balls to simulate asteroid impacts.

2. Drag Races—Forces can help put objects into motion and can also bring moving objects to a stop. In this workshop, fifth-grade students explore the physics of motion using plastic cars with strings and washers attached to provide a pulling force. The students test the speed of the vehicles and explain what forces bring the vehicles to a stop, as the cars collide with and displace barriers at the end of their run.

3. When Rubber Meets the Road—A rubber band twisted around the axle of a plastic car provides the force that moves the car forward. In this workshop, fifth-grade students continue their exploration of force and motion by recording and comparing the distance a vehicle travels under various conditions.

4. On a Roll—The force of gravity makes a ball roll when it is placed on an incline. In this workshop, first-grade students roll balls of different sizes, masses, and materials down ramps of varying heights, comparing their speeds.

5. Keep On Rolling—Roller coasters are filled with twists and turns, as changes in height and direction supply a variety of push and pull forces. In this workshop, first-grade students build on their prior experience with rolling objects. By designing and constructing their own roller coaster made from ramps, cardboard tubes, and flexible tubes, the students experiment with ways to get a marble from the top of a table into a bucket on the floor, some distance away.

6. Force Against Force—Magnets stick to other magnets and to metal objects made of iron or steel. How much force is required to break the attraction between two magnets? In this workshop, fourth-grade students explore ways to balance the force of magnetism against the force of gravity.

7. The Lure of Magnetism—What is the difference between a permanent magnet and an electromagnet? In this workshop, fourth-grade students build an electromagnet by winding a wire around a rivet and attaching the ends to battery terminals. The students first predict how many washers they can pick up with the help of their electromagnet and then perform the experiment to test their predictions.

8. Bend and Stretch—We all expect a spring to stretch or compress when a force is applied, but forces can even deform solid objects like the floor or the top of a table. In this workshop, students in a high school classroom explore ideas about tension and normal force. By applying a force to a spring and measuring the distance the spring is stretched, the students calculate the force constant or stretchiness of the spring.

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