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Enrichment Ideas for Force and Motion

Expand the boundaries of your kit study. Encourage your students' curiosity with these outlets for extending engagement in research.

motion study | friction | mechanics | amazing structures | amusement park physics | pendulums

Motion Study

That's the Way the Ball Bounces
        The Exploratorium provides a scientific and anecdotal tale about the physics of bouncing balls, as well as why and how balls are suited to their specific sports.

Energy Transfer Using Balls
        This simple activity, designed explicitly for a teacher to perform with students, allows a handy visualization of the law of Conservation of Momentum by investigating the actions of ping pong and golf balls.

How Things Work: Balls, Birdies, and Frisbees
        Don't be fooled by the title! The information contained on this page may seem frivolous, but addresses some of the most elemental physics concepts as they relate to everyday items. A physics professor answers many types of reader-submitted questions, with such topics as "Why are there dimples on golf balls?" and "How does fuzz on a tennis ball make it fly faster?"

Spinning Blimps
        Explore motion and design concepts with this extremely simple activity from the Exploratorium. Using only scissors and a piece of paper, students can invent and modify spinning "blimps" while exploring physical science properties.

Racing with Newton's Laws of Motion
        Your class can get involved in this online collaborative project created by an eighth grade science teacher. The project seeks to help students understand Newton's Laws of Motion by constructing and racing balloon-propelled cars. All necessary basic information for students and teachers is listed on the site, but be sure to read this first.

Center of Gravity
        Try this quick activity from The Exploratorium, and you'll be able to find the center of gravity of a long, thin object, even if the object's weight is unevenly distributed.

Downhill Race
        This activity from The Exploratorium investigates issues of potential and kinetic energy and mass distribution by examining how two objects with the same shape and the same mass may behave differently when they roll down a hill.

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Experiment with Friction
        The Science Museum of Minnesota offers an activity that explores friction through the use of ball bearings, and asks some thought questions for reflection after the experiment. There's also a brief video on this page about how an artist accommodates for friction in his movable art. To see it, you'll need the Quicktime plug-in.

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Mechanics Activities
        Definitely technical and therefore for the older student or you only, but these interactive activities from are quite fascinating and do a good job of providing a visible complement to the major concepts that rule mechanics.

Inside a Bathroom Scale
        Explore the world of levers, a spring, and other mechanical parts that allow bathroom scales to measure weight accurately. It's fun to peek inside this everyday object and see simple machines at work.

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Amazing Structures

Pharaoh's Obelisk
        As a companion to a PBS program that aired in the past, this innovative site from NOVA stands well on its own. You might be especially interested in taking a look at NOVA Raises an Obelisk and Lever an Obelisk to see how they deal with physics.

        Following a NOVA presentation on PBS years ago, an archeologist answered questions about how Stonehenge was built, why it was likely to have been built, and what is known about the builders. This could be fascinating to share with your students, considering that, at this time, archeologists believe that the wheel had not yet been invented. Find the archive of these questions and answers here.

Roman Baths and Aqueducts
        Learn all about the magnificent feats of engineering and design that the Romans employed to create baths and miles of aqueducts throughout their empire. Following this link will take you to an interview, which is a good place to start, but be sure to click around the other sections of the site.

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Amusement Park Physics

Amusement Park Physics
        In addition to roller coasters, this site explores the physics behind the carousel, bumper cars, free fall, and pendulum rides. The site is organized in an easy, question- and-answer format, considering some of the famous mysteries of rides, such as "Are some horses [on the carousel] moving faster than others?" and "Wooden or steel coaster: Does it make a difference?" Spend some time on this site, and be sure to click on the physics glossary and the related links for additional info.

How Roller Coasters Work
        These pages examine the principles that keep coasters in their tracks, the hardware that keeps the rides running, and the physics that make the ride so exciting. Be sure to try the animated graphic that illustrates how and when the shifts in potential and kinetic energies happen.

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Resonant Pendulum
        The Exploratorium offers a simple activity using a suspended paint can and magnets that illustrates how a very small force, when applied repeatedly at just the right time, can induce a very large motion.

The Foucault Pendulum
        Learn about how Foucault discovered that a swinging pendulum illustrates the Earth's rotation. You can read Foucault's original document and investigate the science behind the phenomenon on this site.

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The Franklin Institute gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the National Science Foundation and Unisys Corporation.

Franklin Institute National Science Foundation Unisys

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The Franklin Institute is the Demonstration Site for the Eisenhower Mid-Atlantic Consortium, providing science and math resources for teachers.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9819641.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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