I like to introduce Newton’s First Law with a series of activity stations for students to explore followed by a couple of demos. They have fun and it provides shared experiences which we can refer back to later. Here is the activity sheet that guides them:
Many of these stations and demos have as much to do with impulse as they do with Newton’s First Law. I mention this and we revisit these stations and demos later when studying impulse.
Most of these stations and demos are fairly self explanatory. However, a few can benefit from a photo. Here is the “Nuts about Hoops & Bottles” station:
You quickly grab the hoop with a fast, horizontal motion. This station can become overcrowded because some students obsess over trying to capture the most nuts in the bottle. (I’ve seen students catch over twenty.)
The “Hitting the Stake” station is perhaps the most surprising to students. It is easy to build and looks like this:
The “Spin the Human” station works best on teachers with little hair. We have one constructed from pool balls. This one is built with golf balls and a coat hanger:
It is best to put the “Chopping Blocks” station in the corner. Some students have an incredible amount of aggression to release.
I’m sure everyone has seen the “Clearing the Table” demo. If not, MythBusters has an extreme version.
A couple of years ago, I captured the “Egg Drop Soup” demo with the high-speed camera. I usually have all four eggs make it.
What is interesting about these activities is the evolution of this lesson. When I started teaching, these were all demos. I put on the show and the students’ engagement was that they laughed. A few years ago, my team transitioned these from demos to activities. More fun, more engaging. Based on a suggestion from my instructional coordinator, I now introduce each station and have the students record their predictions before get up and start visiting stations. This ensures they actually make predictions since many of these stations are too enticing for them to make predictions before playing with them.
Maybe I’ll let students “Clear the Table” next year.