Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, and astronomer. In the 1600s, he observed some curious events leading to Newton’s Laws of Motion. Philosophers at the time had tried to figure out simple rules to define how things work in the universe, but those laws of motion finally explained what they had been searching for.
How to teach Newton’s laws of motion to students
Students in all grade levels examine forces and motion in
science classes as established by Next Generation Science Standards. They learn vocabulary words like inertia, acceleration, velocity, and equilibrium. Students predict whether objects will move and when they will stop. They analyze the causes and effects to answer why. Through all of these investigations, students explore examples of Newton’s Laws Of Motion. What are Newton’s Laws of Motion?
Unlocking the basics: What are Newton’s laws of motion?
Sir Isaac Newton worked with
mathematics and physics. According to legends, he developed the theories of gravitation and transformed science when he was just 23 years old after watching an apple fall. In 1687, he introduced his laws of motion in “Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis.”
Newton’s first law of motion
Newton’s first law of motion is inertia. This law states that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Similarly, an object in motion remains in motion at a constant speed unless an outside force causes it to change. Inertia is the tendency to remain unchanged. Think about the way a kite changes motion with the wind.
Newton’s second law of motion
Newton’s second law involves force. This is the law that gave the equation: Force = mass × acceleration (F=ma). What does the equation mean? The second law states that the acceleration of an object depends on the mass of the object and the amount of force applied. What are some examples? They’re everywhere! Kicking a soccer ball and pushing a stroller are just a couple.
Newton’s third law of motion
Newton's third law of motion is often quoted. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Force on one object exerts force on the second object. The second object exerts a force that is equal and opposite to the first. Bouncing a ball or snapping a rubber band illustrate this law.
Fun approaches and activities to teaching laws of motion
Paper and Rock is a twist on the Rock, Paper, Scissors game. For this version, begin with a prediction. Tell students they will drop a rock and a wadded-up piece of paper simultaneously. They fall at an equal rate because the acceleration is constant due to the force of gravity acting on them. Did your students predict correctly?
Bowl and a Marble is great for showing Newton's first law. Students roll a marble down the side of a bowl and watch it roll back and forth until it rests at the bottom.
Pendulum Painting is a creative way to demonstrate motion and gravity. All you need is a pendulum (or any kind of weight tied to a string), paper, and paint. Hang the pendulum from a fixed point with paper underneath. After dipping the weight in the paint, let it swing back and forth. It’s a win for both science and art projects!
Tug-of-War is all about force, so this game seems perfect. Know your school and district’s policy about this activity before using it with your students. If it’s permissible, create teams of equal size and have students compete against each other in a tug-of-war. Use a rope and a large, open area.
Jenga might already be in your supply of classroom games. Did you realize it’s an example of Newton’s first law? Take the game out of the storage closet during science class for a lesson your kids will want to do again and again.
Paper Airplane Races are always fun for students. Get creative with the designs and see how far each plane flies. Discuss how other factors, like lift, drag, or thrust, might affect the flight.
Elevate teaching Newton’s laws of motion today!
Virtual labs are effective ways to explore Newton’s laws of motion. Let’s take a look at just a few Gizmos.
Force and Fan Cart Gizmo
Force and Fan Cart Gizmo, explore the laws of motion using a simple fan cart. Students can drag up to three objects onto the fan cart. The speed of the cart is displayed with a speedometer and recorded in a table and a graph.
Free Fall Tower Gizmo
Students recreate Galileo's famous experiment with the
Free Fall Tower Gizmo by dropping objects, like ping pong balls, golf balls, soccer balls, or watermelons, off the Tower of Pisa. Objects can be dropped in or without air or a parachute.
Gravity Pitch Gizmo
Let your students throw balls on different planets with the
Gravity Pitch Gizmo to see how each planet's gravity affects the ball. They will observe the ball's path when thrown at different velocities.
Feed the Monkey Gizmo
Ready for some fun with the
Feed the Monkey Gizmo? Fire a banana cannon at a monkey in a tree. The monkey drops from the tree when the banana is fired from the cannon. Students determine where to aim the cannon so the monkey catches the banana.