1st Grade Trophy Links
Vermilion Parish Schools
Activity 5: Newton’s Second Law (SI GLEs: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 23, 31; PS GLEs: 15, 19, 20, 21, 23)

Material List: (for each group) meter tapes, meter sticks, rulers, safety goggles, stopwatches, triple beam balance scales, film canisters or plastic containers with sand for extra mass, wheeled objects (inexpensive plastic trucks or cars, wheeled vehicles built by students using construction kits, etc.) calculators, ramp large enough to provide a solid starting point for the vehicles, masking tape, science learning logs

Have students revisit safety guidelines prior to beginning the activity. They should consider safe use of the space in the room and the rolling of vehicles.

In this activity, student groups will use a wheeled object to study the relationship between mass and acceleration when a constant force is applied to the object.

Depending on the size of the objects used, measure and mark 1 – 5 meter distances on a flat surface.  Be sure to include the ramp in the measurements. Using a ramp standardizes the release method.  Students place the vehicle at the top of the ramp, line rear wheels up with a masking tape start line and release, without any push. Make meter sticks, meter tapes, and rulers available for student use during the investigation. They are expected to measure with accuracy at all times.

The object will be released and the time it takes to move the distance will be recorded. Students will need to measure the mass of their objects, and record the time it takes to travel until the object stops (or has negative acceleration). Have students run several trials before adding more mass to their vehicles. Each addition of mass should also be measured and recorded on a student generated chart in their science learning logs (view literacy strategy descriptions).

Students should contemplate what problems must be considered in this investigation. Provide access to calculators. The experiment will be repeated by placing additional mass in or on the object. Try using a film canister or plastic container half-filled or filled with sand. Students should see that the increased mass results in a smaller change in speed, thus a smaller acceleration.

The teacher should have the students identify what changes they will see (dependent or responding variable) and what changes they will make (independent or manipulated variables). The trials should be repeated to obtain an average for each variable tested.

Students should note variations in data collected from the different groups, if the groups used similar vehicles.  They should discuss if the variations fall within an acceptable range.

In addition to the students completing a laboratory report, summarizing activities should include a class discussion led  by teacher-guided questioning and direct instruction as needed, enabling students to respond either orally or in written format to summative questions and tasks as follows:

  • Make predictions about the time it will take the vehicle to travel the required distance.

  • Use observations and data from the activity to give a definition of accelerated motion.

  • Explain the difference between velocity and speed and why velocity is expressed in both speed and direction. Give an example of when knowing both the speed and direction of an object is important.

  • Draw and label a diagram to represent the forces acting on the car.

  • Predict how the speed and direction will change if the direction of the force changes.

  • How does a change in the vehicle’s mass affect the acceleration of the vehicle?

  • When would students observe that with increased mass, increased force is needed to move the mass? (moving a refrigerator vs. a small table, etc.)

  • Write a description of what was learned in the experiment.





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