Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Toy Car Distance Investigation

The final activity in my Toy Car Physics! unit is an experiment involving force and resulting distance on a toy car.  To be frank, this was a little bit of stretch for my three and five-year-olds.  They did enjoy it though, and got some great practice with numbers.

We tried out two apparatuses.  My son used his hotwheels launcher.  This approach requires that the student basically understand the force of gravity. Many kids do by kindergarten, but for those who do not, it would create an unnecessary hassle.  The key is to understand that by launching the cars from lesser heights, you are limiting the time that gravity has to exert the force, therefore there is "less force" on the car. To be precise, you would say that there is less work done by the force.

My daughter used a rubber band powered launcher created by my husband.   It consists of two screws in a board.  We were able to add more and more rubber bands in order to exert more and more force on the car. The results were nicely quantifiable.

However, before we started anything, they had to make their predictions.  I wrote down their verbal hypothesis, and they drew pictures of the effects of little and big pushes.

Each child had the opportunity to launch the cars with three different sized forces.  Then, we measured the distance between the launch point and the point where the car stopped.  For us, this was a fun way to practice reading numbers larger than twenty.

As we worked, we recorded data in the pre-made data table.  When we were finished, we moved it to a graph. 

 We obtained very nice results with both set ups.  By nice, we I mean that when more force was used, more distance was achieved.  That was the standard result and the physics concept I was hoping to reinforce.

This wraps up my Toy Car Physics!  unit.   I hope it gives you some ideas about what can be done to meet some of these science objectives.  If you would like access to these hand outs or more detailed information about how these activities line up with Next Generation Science Standards or Common Core, please click here to download the file from my TpT store.

Learning science is naturally fun for most kids, because it requires them to do the same things they would naturally do when playing with toys.  As a mom, I love to enjoy life with my kids.  As a physics teacher, I appreciated every bit of groundwork that was laid before students walked into my classroom.   Admittedly, my experience in teaching science to large groups of elementary students is limited, so if you are an experienced classroom teacher with observations or concerns about how the activities in this unit would work in a standard class, I would love to have your input.

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