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Teaching Physics With Toys
Tue Nov 09, 2010 9:58 AM
When I taught HS I loved to demonstrate physics using everyday toys. For example, the hot wheel race track (straight one) was great for Newton's second law. The kids eyes lite up when they saw the toys and they really got involved in the activity. An administrator from another district came into the classroom when the students were using toys to understand the concept of center of gravity. Some students had Weebles (they wobble but they don't fall down). This administrator asked me if the district ran out of money and I used toys because I didn't have equipment. I thought he lacked comprehension about engaging students.
How about some comments from others?
101470 Activity Points
Tue Nov 09, 2010 10:04 AM
I went through the NSTA Library and found the following:
They are both books but the one is a chapter from a book that you can purchase inexpensively.
Teaching Physics with Toys: Hands-On Investigations for Grades 3-9, Second Edition
"The Magnet Derby" a chapter from [b]More Everyday Science Mysteries
Let's get the ball rolling on this topic.
Tue Nov 09, 2010 10:06 AM
Bye the way, there is also an NSTA Book about teaching chemistry with toys. I have a huge collection of toys that are still in my garage. I still can't help looking in the toy stores and wondering how I could use a particular toy to teach. My son's complained that I spent time in the toy stores and bought toys I didn't let them play with. Oh well!
Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:15 PM
I, too, must admit to using my children's toys when teaching physics and chemistry. My sons have magnetix and K'Nex. We use them quite a bit when we make model of molecules. I have a bridge building lesson when we study forces. Students construct several different types of bridges using K'Nex and test their load capacity.
58205 Activity Points
Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:18 PM
Thank you so much for sharing the NSTA Learning Center. I have lots of resources now.....
105 Activity Points
Tue Nov 09, 2010 8:31 PM
I am Patty, also an Online Advisor, and I loved your quick comment about having lots of resources now. I would love to learn more about what you teach and what resources are of interest to you. It would be great to hear more from you.
I taught physics for many years and now work mainly with teachers. One of the joys that accompanies this is meeting new teachers, if they are new to science teaching or if they are veterans looking for new ideas.
How about opening a small window into your teaching environment when you have the chance. Lets share ideas. Give us a shout, Elisa, we all look forward to chatting more.
45890 Activity Points
Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:55 AM
I am so glad that you found my posting helpful. Kids love toys at all ages. Another suggestion is my Physic Tree instead of a Chemistree. I would have kids pick names of memebers of the class and each would buy a small toy they could hang on the tree. Then names were picked the day before Christmas break and that student had to select a toy that they could talk about some aspect of physics that made it work. If they couldn't I alwaays said I would keep it but I never did. These toys were hung a week before the break so basically they had to learn everything about each toy so they could report on any I selected and get to keep it. It was really fun and students got to apply their knowledge of physics.
Wed Nov 10, 2010 8:31 PM
I will be teaching physics for the very first time this year - at the middle school level. I took a course through Montana State University on the World of Motion. The entire course was taught using toys and the 5E learning cycle. This course was my first introduction to the 5E model. I loved the course, and especially loved learning physics and motion through toys. We even graphed the speed of several different windup toys - it was great fun for my son and I. I am sure my students are going to love it too!
I think I will invest in the book Adah mentioned. It sounds like a perfect match for my plans for developing 5E learning cycle lessons on physics or force and motion. Thanks for the post and suggestion.
79030 Activity Points
Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:30 AM
Whenever I reflect on Teaching with Toys I can't help but think about the lessons and video clips that NASA has produced. Past missions have highlighted astronauts "playing" with toys and encouraging students to predict the effects of gravity on the toys' movements. The toys used are inexpensive and easily accessible.
Visit NASA's site for a teacher guide and video clips:
Enjoy your day! Alyce
Toys_in_Space__NASA_Extension.doc (0.67 Mb)
64065 Activity Points
Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:33 PM
Thank you! I find this link very helpful!
1540 Activity Points
Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:17 PM
When I was in my 5/6 classroom, I used Teaching Physics with Toys" regularly. I found my students were able to engage with the material and I didn't have to spend an arm and a leg for each lesson.
It is nice to be reminded about thus wonderful book as I am currently exploring possibilities for working with 4 year olds in January.
Any ideas would be appreciated
33350 Activity Points
Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:13 PM
This has nothing to do with teaching physics; however, a middle school algebra teacher in our district allows each student to choose a "buddy" (stuffed animal) to sit on their desk when they're taking tests. There must be something to using toys to teach because she has been ranked the top math teacher in Maryland this year!
7210 Activity Points
Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:11 AM
These stuffed toys might encourse students to be very comfortable in the classroom. Some children are afraid of math because they hear their parents say it is hard or they just find it difficult to comprehend. Next thing might be helper dogs like the ones in hospitals to reduce the stress of the subject. Just a silly suggestion.
Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:54 PM
I love administrators when it comes to science because most have no clue what we are doing. Toys add to student engagement and real life applications when students see the toys. Last year our science fair essay topic was "The Science of Toys" I read some great essays on this topic.
430 Activity Points
Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:20 AM
Alyce wrote, "Whenever I reflect on Teaching with Toys I can't help but think about the lessons and video clips that NASA has produced. Past missions have highlighted astronauts "playing" with toys and encouraging students to predict the effects of gravity on the toys' movements. The toys used are inexpensive and easily accessible."
Thank you for sharing these resources. Having students predict what they think will happen and then viewing the phenomena is a great way to motivate and also to dispel any misconceptions. Do you also have your students test the toys on Earth as well? What substitutes do you make for unavailable toys?
Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:27 AM
Kathy wrote, "When I was in my 5/6 classroom, I used Teaching Physics with Toys" regularly. I found my students were able to engage with the material and I didn't have to spend an arm and a leg for each lesson."
Would you please share the ISBN number and author for this book? It sounds like a great resource.
Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:57 PM
by Ruth Hutson, Today, 8:27 AM
Would you please share the ISBN number and author for this book? It sounds like a great resource.
Hi Ruth, I'm not sure if this is exactly the same book that Kathy referenced, but I have a copy of the book Teaching Physics with Toys by Beverly Taylor, et al. The ISBN is 0070647216. I have several other books in this series including Exploring Matter with Toys (ISBN 1883822327), Teaching Chemistry with Toys (ISBN 1883822297), and Investigating Solids, Liquids and Gases with Toys (ISBN 1883822289).
There are also lots of fun physics lessons that you can do with K-nex and Legos. I have a set of lesson plans called "Minds in Motion" that I received at a conference. I'd be happy to scan them in and upload them if anyone is interested.
You can also teach force and motion using a basketball. Since the mass of the ball remains the same, what do you need to do to make the ball travel farther? Increase the force you throw it with...f=ma. You can also teach Newton's laws doing some fun activities like the standing vs. running long jump. Why can you jump farther if you do the running long jump? Inertia. Teach Pascal's Principle by having a raw egg squeezing contest. If you squeeze a raw egg evenly, you cannot break it because the liquid in the container and the container (the shell) are all under equal pressure. These are all fun ways to get your students motivated to learn physics!
I've attached an article called "Issac Newton Olympics" that details some of the activities mentioned above.
Isaac Newton Olympics (Journal Article)
40795 Activity Points
Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:00 PM
Maureen wrote, "Hi Ruth, I'm not sure if this is exactly the same book that Kathy referenced, but I have a copy of the book Teaching Physics with Toys by Beverly Taylor, et al. The ISBN is 0070647216. I have several other books in this series including Exploring Matter with Toys (ISBN 1883822327), Teaching Chemistry with Toys (ISBN 1883822297), and Investigating Solids, Liquids and Gases with Toys (ISBN 1883822289).
There are also lots of fun physics lessons that you can do with K-nex and Legos. I have a set of lesson plans called "Minds in Motion" that I received at a conference. I'd be happy to scan them in and upload them if anyone is interested."
Thank you so much for the ISBN. I would be interested in seeing the "Minds in Motion" lessons.
Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:39 PM
Hello forum, I'm really gratful for the comments you've made. I noticed that over 95% of the commments here are from women. Please, don't jump on me for making this comment, but as a man, I think we sometimes don't share in the same manner that women do, thus we don't use some of the great ideas that exist on these types of "boards". As a former physics teacher in a traditional high school and now a teaching science in a school for pregnant girls, I'm looking for many creataive ways to engage my students into all levels of science. Although I've used some of my own children's toys for demos in the past, I lost sight of these teaching tools until today! Thanks so much for re-opening my eyes.
375 Activity Points
Tue Dec 07, 2010 7:56 PM
George wrote, "Hello forum, I'm really gratful for the comments you've made. I noticed that over 95% of the commments here are from women. Please, don't jump on me for making this comment, but as a man, I think we sometimes don't share in the same manner that women do, thus we don't use some of the great ideas that exist on these types of "boards". As a former physics teacher in a traditional high school and now a teaching science in a school for pregnant girls, I'm looking for many creataive ways to engage my students into all levels of science. Although I've used some of my own children's toys for demos in the past, I lost sight of these teaching tools until today! Thanks so much for re-opening my eyes."
Thank you so much for posting. The Learning Center has some tremendous resources that you can use with your students. What are your students currently studying in your physics classes?
Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:53 PM
I found a NSTA Journal Article that utilizes toys in a 5E model activity. "Let the Dogs Out". The title alone sounds engaging. The toy being used are dog bobble-heads. I'm sure any bobble-head toy could be substituted. Let us know if you give this activity a try!
Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:33 PM
Let the Dogs Out: Using Bobble Head Toys to Explore Force and Motion (Journal Article)
Thu Dec 09, 2010 10:49 PM
My favorite physics toy (as well as that of my daughter, who has now graduated from college) are the K'Nex toys. For months, my living room was consumed by an eight foot long roller coaster, and earlier, a large ferris wheel that she would put all kinds of "little people" from the lego sets. She would come home from school to make adjustments to both, to see how fast the ferris wheel could turn without spinning off the little people, and how to increase the height of the roller coaster. A local architect worked with students to create various types of bridges, testing the strength of respective designs. I haven't seen them as much lately, since I think most students now defer to video games and computer simulations, but I think there is so much value in building a tangible structure, looking at it from many angles, and tweaking it to see the effect of the change on a dependent variable. The prototyping also helps them develop hypotheses, and hone observation skills.
67880 Activity Points
Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:21 AM
Has anyone used the NASA Toys in Space resources?
68500 Activity Points
Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:25 AM
According to one of the above websites there is a Toys in Space DVD, though I could not find where it might be requested or purchased. Does anyone have an appropriate link?
Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:20 PM
Pamela, You were asking about a DVD "Toys in Space'...You can find it in the NASA CORE (google this)curriculum. Then in their search tab in subject-"Physics". You can find it there. There is a cost involved to purchase it. Many years ago, I was able to send a blank VCR tape for them to copy onto and then I paid shipping and handling. I do not know if that option is still available. My students enjoyed the lessons while viewing this resourse.
42660 Activity Points
Sun Dec 12, 2010 8:20 AM
I only saw that the DVD was no longer available. I was thinking of "snagging" the online video, but the option of requesting them copy onto my media is much better. Thanks again
Sat Jan 08, 2011 10:58 AM
I love reading your post on using toys in science. The physics one hanging the toys on the tree and having students to conduct the research on that toy is awesome. I am a middle school physical science teachers, and I have found that students really love the dollar store toys I bring in for exploration. I will use your idea and have students bring in a toy and explain the physics of it. Great idea.
605 Activity Points
Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:59 PM
I think that it is a great idea to use toys to teach any kind of Science, not just physics. When I teach force and motion I use hot wheels on a ramp. I have also used little wooden cars that the students can decorate themselves. I have also used balloon helicopters and cars. I have used tops too.
I also think that games are a great way to teach different subjects in Science. Adds another modality to things. And it makes learning fun, because they don't realize they are learning when they play.
1575 Activity Points
Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:16 PM
If it is not too troublesome, please scan and upload Minds-in-motion. It sounds like a nifty resoruce for many teachers.
Thank you. Patty
Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:06 PM
Hi Maureen, Ruth and Everyone, I would love to have the "Minds in Motion" resources as well. Thanks for bringing it back to everyone's attention, Patty. So many times we can't attend those awesome NSTA conferences; how wonderful that the presenters share beyond their one-time workshops!
79338 Activity Points
Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:59 PM
In our physics classes we have an extensive number of toys and toy labs. I will upload some labs soon(once grades are done).
Examples: Halloween Bats - Centripetal Motion, Pogo Stick + Vernier Motion Detector - Energy Conversion, wind up walkers - relative motion.
18550 Activity Points
Thu Jan 20, 2011 8:59 PM
I am currently obtaining a bachelor's degree in elementary education so I found all of your posts to be quite informative. Kathy was able to highlight two awesome factors of using toys to teach physics, in her post. Using toys helps children to become easily engaged in learning and it is inexpensive. Not all schools have the ability to spend a lot on science equipment so teachers need to know ways to work around that. Including toys in learning also allows for students to make connections between science and their world which increases the value of the knowledge being taught.
Thank you all for sharing your personal experiences, ideas, and resources.
70 Activity Points
Sun Apr 10, 2011 2:18 PM
I think it's a great idea to use everyday toys or objects for science lessons. It shows the students that you can see science everywhere everyday. That you don't only see science in school with some big expensive equipment. I used a slinky for our wave energy experiment, the students thought it was cool. Some of the students wanted to know where you can buy a slinky so that they can try some things at home. I thought that was awesome.
1420 Activity Points
Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:27 PM
Ruth, I too would love the Minds in Motion lesson plans.
I love toys almost as much as I do books. Dollar stores are my favorite place in the whole wide world. Lesson plans are everywhere, especially in the toy department. The toughest of all concepts to teach is systems, and in the dollar store is full of items that are just made for taking apart to analyze how they work. Squirt guns, growing animals, jumping toys, pull back cars, wind up cars, balloons of all sizes, paddles and balls, spinning tops … and best of all, it’s only a dollar!
I have used all of the Teaching with Toys books with my middle school students and they find them absolutely fascinating. I’ve also used the Toys in Space video that has been mentioned before. The kids are intrigued with how items work are so different in space than on Earth.
http://aesp.nasa.okstate.edu/ftp/anderson/toysweb/index.htm is a website that has Toys in Space Investigation Teacher Guide, Student Investigation Document and Boomerang Template, all available for download in pdf form. There is also a link to purchase the International Toys in Space: Science on the Station for $12.00. I don’t know if you can still purchase the DVD or not.
http://quest.nasa.gov/space/teachers/liftoff/toys.html site also has lots of resources for Liftoff to Learning: Toys in Space 2. It appears once you download Realplayer, you can view the Toys in Space 2 video for free. The video length is 37:49.
http://www.archive.org/details/international_toys_in_space also contains a few video clips of International Toys in Space in a variety of formats.
42980 Activity Points
Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:02 PM
Physical: Teaching with Toys
I forgot to post there is an excellent article in NSTA Science Scope, Everyday Engineering: What Make a Squirt Gun Squirt?, October 1, 2009. The kids loved this activity beyond words. They were fascinated with how squirt guns work.
The 5E model is utilized throughout the article in such a way I could use the activity with my students immediately. The activity worksheet is set up to be used the moment you access the article.
Everyday Engineering: What makes a squirt gun squirt? (Journal Article)
Sun Jun 19, 2011 9:59 PM
Thanks for starting this discussion thread, Adah. It sounds like a lot of us have teacher toy boxes filled with marvelous toys for teaching moments. I have some tried and true objects always just a cupboard away. For example I have various sizes and types of balls, 4 slinky toys, paper helicopter patterns, a Cartesian diver, a density column, and a bin of matchbox cars 'gassed up' and raring to go (to name a few). Take the slinky - it can be use to demonstrate earthquake waves, longitudinal waves, transverse waves, standing waves, compression,frequency, or a DNA molecule. I wonder what others have in their individual teacher toy boxes... It would be fun to share ideas of particular toys that we each can't live with out.
Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:17 AM
I don't think age matters when it comes to teaching with toys. What a better way than to engage students with objects they are familiar with? My unit on motion and forces is centered around toys and I encourage my students to search through their old toy boxes for examples.
This way my oh so cool 8th graders can save face since they are just way too old for toys, but Ms. Burke told them they had to bring their old toys in.
230 Activity Points
Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:28 AM
I fully agree with you, Adah. Even today, in India (where I come from), it is very rare to see teachers using toys when teaching physics, because, this strategy is considered to be unconventional by parents, teachers and most importantly, school managements. Moreover textbooks too present concepts in a very conventional manner offering little scope for innovations and student friendly approaches.
However, I have always tried to break conventions by using toys in my classes as a teacher. Toys are indeed one of the most pupil friendly resources but are very sidelined in our classrooms as a teaching resource.
Panamalai R Guruprasad
625 Activity Points
Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:20 AM
In addition to toys, household items which we use everyday, can do wonders in making kids learn. My students in middle school in different countries have used their analogue wrist watches to learn concepts such as angular displacement and angular velocity with ease in their lesson on `Circular motion'. Of course when teaching the lesson, I did have to stress a very important point: Although the the tip of the second's needle behaves exactly like the "Point P moving in a circle ..", the former moves due to its being part of the needle that is driven basically by electric force (supplied by the battery), the latter's movement is due to centripetal force (example of which used to be the standard ones such as stone tied to a string and whirled round, which my students enjoyed doing).
I had the pleasure of teaching entire lesson on Newton's laws of motion by using non-battery operated plastic cars and trucks several times. Toys are a great teaching resource.
Fri Aug 26, 2011 10:34 AM
Hi Catheryn, I teach 9th graders who are also too cool for toys but forget all about that when I bring in old toddler toys to demonstrate motion/freefall. Calculating speed, acceleration, freefall, etc becomes less painful when students can play around with Tonka trucks and squeeze toys.
2640 Activity Points
Sat Aug 27, 2011 5:24 PM
thank you for sharing ideas about teaching physics. I am new to the matter
and also getting nut, because of the budget.
750 Activity Points
Sat Sep 10, 2011 2:08 AM
I'm new to 5th grade physics and I'm very interested in using toys. I know the students would love to use toys in their experiments. I am also interesting in making physic toys with my students that are cheap or form recycled materials. I have been looking at www.arvindguptatoys.com/toys.html, http://scitoys.com/, http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/,etc. One of my students had brought in a jacob's ladder toy that he made from paper and ribbon that he saw from youtube. When the class saw this, they really wanted to make one on their own. I think this group of students would be very interested in creating science toys. Are their any ideas for making toys with 5th grade students?
4155 Activity Points
Sat Sep 10, 2011 3:00 PM
One thing I tried was a competition where students try to build a design that surrounds an egg and try to launch the egg as far as possible without it breaking. A lot of students used styrofoam, but they also had to consider the shape, amount of force that would be applied to their design, etc. They had a lot of fun doing it. We also talked about if we rolled an egg on a smooth surface vs. grass, how that would affect the distance the egg would travel. I think this activity was more for the engagement aspect though as opposed to the learning aspect, some of it I admit was a stretch of what we learned.
4055 Activity Points
Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:08 PM
Toys are the best teacher! I have also gotten strange looks and comments from Administrators...but on the other hand, my students want to be in my class, even the ones who do poorly just because we explore different concepts using toys and other things they are familiar with and like. They are more engaged and I've seen kids get the concept and then immediately explain, in the best of details to others who didn't get it. Learning science or anything for that matter should be FUN! If we can engage them, we can open their minds which makes them more willing to learn and even become self-directed learners. But I hear you when your own child complains that you buy all these toys that they don't get to play with...my grumble to...and then run off with them anyway. ;-)
3245 Activity Points
Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:54 PM
Great idea! I've never taught any physic activities with my students (first year teacher) and I've never had too during my student teaching. I am a special education teacher and my focus of concentration has always been reading, writing, and math in a resource setting. However, I got hired to teach in the inclusion setting...which teaches every subject! I haven't taken a science course since an undergraduate.
I will be looking into the books you recommended! Thank you for sharing your resources.
1470 Activity Points
Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:30 AM
I love the idea of using toys to teach physics. One project I have my third grade students do is to construct a toy car out of recyclable materials using what they learn about forces and motion and simple machines. They all have to use the same size piece of wood to start (the leftover board from a Kamaboko fish cake). Then they use whatever recyclable materials they can find around the house (except for parts from actual toy cars) to construct a car that will travel down hill when a small force (push) is applied. The whole class races their cars and whichever one travels the farthest wins and races the fastest cars from the other third grade classes. We also vote on “Most Creative” and “Best Use of Recycled Products”. We tie this in with recycling and conservation. Our students also have to test out their car beforehand using the Scientific Process and record their results. They also have to write a procedure in which they describe how they built their car and selected the materials. Students also give an oral presentation to the class about their cars.
I also have a Simple Machines science toy kit that I let my students play and explore with.
Does anyone have any other ideas on actual toys that could be used to teach 3rd grade physics for topics like forces and motion and simple machines?
1750 Activity Points
Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:54 PM
If you love to use toys you can learn to make them.
Arvind Gupta: Turning trash into toys for learning
Watch this TED and learan.
Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:27 AM
I will get the opportunity to participate with our science inquiry master in a speed lab using motorized toy cars. He has these 9th grade students work in small groups of 2 to 6 to write up their own experiment of how to determine speed. They are writing their problem, hypothesis and procedures on small white boards and it is very interesting as I walk around the room how uniquely different their procedures are. Before they conduct their experiment, he has each group peer review two other group's written procedures. There is so much decision making going on and the class is alive with anticipation.
2250 Activity Points
Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:32 PM
I will be teaching a force and motion unit later this school year. I am going to have the students build cars out of their milk cartons from lunch. To start this unit, I am going to have the students create a car as a class using a quart size carton. We will cover vocabulary words (force, motion, momentum, variables, etc.) to build background knowledge before the students build their own cars. The students will work towards building a car that will travel the farthest down a ramp. I am looking for different activities to do before the students build their cars. I might want to have them test different wheel sizes to see which would work the best.
1500 Activity Points
Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:35 PM
Thank you Alayna for your wonderful idea of students applying their knowledge of simple machines by creating a car out of recycled materials. Your idea has sparked me to think about other materials students could use. I recently watched a video on www.teachingchannel.org in which middle school students created a car out of food. A genius idea that I saw, was that the teacher created a practice ramp in the area that the students were building their cars. By having a “practice ramp” available, students were able to actively work through the engineering process to create a more efficient and durable car. Students used their observations and inferences of their car’s practice performance and then made modifications to improve the design of their vehicle. I am working to revise our school’s science lessons to inquiry as well as to the expectations of STEM and your idea is one that uses students’ science content knowledge, and then pushes them to go further. Thank you again for your wonderful idea!
For a direct link to the video of Edible Cars: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/engineering-design-process-stem-lesso
620 Activity Points
Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:15 PM
Thank you Margeaux,
That is an inspiring video clip watching those 7th graders working in groups to design and test their cars made out of food. This looked very much like an inquiry lesson to me. Using food, which is not uniform in dimension is very difficult. I think that doing this lab in Hilo might be trickier with our high humidity and we would have to incorporate that into the lesson. There was so much activity and it was all on task. While listening to the comments of students talking to their group members about problems in their design, what really stands out is how well they receive each others ideas. I am curious as to what their lab report conclusions look like.
Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:41 PM
There are quite a few thoughtful activities that students may do with objects that slide or roll down a ramp.
1. Change the mass of the car while keeping the height of the ramp the same. Ask if there is a difference in the time it takes the car to move down the ramp; if there is a difference in the speed of the car as it rolls off of the ramp and onto the desk top or floor (note-there must be a very smooth transition from the ramp to the table or floor; ask how measurements may be made to answer these questions; ask the students what they think happens as the mass of the car is changed
2. Use a car with constant mass and change the height of the ramp. Ask the same questions as those above.
3. ask if the nature of the surface of the ramp will affect the time for the car to move down the ramp and its speed as it rolls along the table or floor
One think to be mindful of is the way the axles of the car are attached to the car as well as the wheels. There are many, many car activities available on the web. Check a few of them and see if you find any that are useful to your teaching situation.
One thing that I did when teaching was not to introduce a lot of terms but to let the students use their own language to explain what they thought was happening and the science behind the motion of the car. Only after the students had observed and explained in their own words did we talk about
"science words" and vocabulary.
Erica, please continue to share with us. What did the students do? What were their thoughts on the motion of the car? Where did they want to go next, as in how did they wish to extend the activity?
Sat Sep 29, 2012 10:19 PM
Those are great ideas, using a ramp with toy cars. Do you use motorized or free wheeling for these labs? Do you let the students build their own ramps and are they limited to using materials that you provide or can they bring in supplies from home? What have been some of the results of these activities, do you notice more independent thinking?
Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:13 PM
You ask great questions.
1. ramps are boards and bricks covered with duct tape and put in plastic baggies to keep the dust out of the area
2. students may adjust the location and height of their ramps
3. generally, if the object is to study the effect of gravity at varying angles of inclination, the students use vehicles that are not motorized - gravity does the work
4. if we are investigating friction, I have home built boxes that have different surfaces on the bottom; students may add masses to the inside of the boxes
5. if the students are designing and building a car for a project, then materials are designated accordingly -- is it a mousetrap car, a rubber band car, a balloon car, or a car powered only by gravity
Our discussion can really delve more deeply into your questions. Go ahead and respond and let's go from there.
Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:28 PM
I am attaching my collection of LC resources for Teaching with Toys.
Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:44 AM
This is the first academic year that I am teaching physics and I must agree, the best part of physics is playing with toys. I love the info shared on this thread and will definitely use these ideas in my own classroom.
Some toys that I have used so far are cars, balloons, homemade hoover crafts, balloon rockets and water bottle rockets. I will start using bobble heads for spring motions and would like to try use water balloon launchers for projectiles.
There is a great thread about using ANGRY BIRDS for projectile motion! and there are a lot of other great ideas to use toys in there too.
1060 Activity Points
Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:58 AM
I am not a licensed teacher yet, but I have taught in many classroom for my fieldwork. I have taught science before and never even thought about using everyday toys that the students may have at home! I think that is a fantastic way to get students engaged in the lesson. It is also a great way to help students remember the concepts. If it is with toys they have at home, the information can be brought home and retaught to parents by the students. I love trying to get parents involved in what's happening in the class and this is a perfect way to do so! I love the resources cited in the forum and I have full intentions on using them! Thank you all so much!
1380 Activity Points
Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:18 PM
What a wonderful post reminding us that we should encourage our science students to speak up about science at the dinner table and to share concepts that they learned in science class with younger siblings and parents. Often, this is really neat for students who come from bilingual homes. They offer their parents opportunities to speak and share about science in the second language. Often what children learn in school becomes homework for parents - this is a great endeavor.
Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:55 PM
I love this idea! I'm currently going to school to be a teacher, but I will have to remember this for the future!
4150 Activity Points
Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:29 PM
Keep toys in mind and start collecting them from novelty stores, airports, year sales etc. It is wonderful to have a collection to use, in all content areas and at all levels. Check out the wonderful books at book sales, too.
Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:01 AM
Using hotwheels is a great idea. I tend to borrow a ramp and marble from other physic teachers but hot wheels have cool ramps, I am sure my students would be interested. In terms of demonstration, I also use everyday examples. I had students create balloon cars to demonstrate force and motion. This way they won't need to buy expensive materials, all they need is a card, straw, tape, bottle caps, and a balloon. My students got really creative and used other objects but the turn out was awesome! They really enjoyed the races and parents even got involved with the project.
495 Activity Points
Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:32 PM
Thanks for the great post, especially for the reminder of a small design project that uses balloons as accelerators for vehicles.
When studying Newton's Third Law and momentum, I used to give my students one piece of 9 by 5 construction paper, a straw, two paper clips, s small strip of sticky tape, and a balloon and challenge them to create a vehicle that would 'fly' along a string from one end of the classroom to another. They had 20 minutes to work with a partner on this little challenge. Often it was interesting to observe how they placed the plane on the string and what happened when the air came out of the balloon. (Some students had to redesign and/or reposition their plane on the string as they wondered why.) It was instructive to them and helped them to relate what happens with rocket fuel as a rocket lifts off. My students were fortunate that we had motion sensors that we placed at the end of the string attached to the wall and they were able to get real live graphs of the flight of their plane and analyze momentum, acceleration, and frictional forces. It is always nice to quantitative data as well as qualitative. Some planes reached terminal velocity when knitting yarn was used for the string. This entire activity took a 45-50 minute class and was 'phun' by all. Now, it could be called an engineering design, STEM activity, as is the case with a lot of traditional constructivist inquiry.
Thu Apr 11, 2013 7:52 PM
Thank you for sharing all of those great ideas. I am currently studying to be an elementary school teacher and I love all of the ideas that are being shared in this thread. I am currently creating a unit on energy and heat. These ideas will go a long way.
I am also a parent of two school age children. As Samantha mentioned, it is really nice to see my children come home excited about the things that they are learning. It is true; my children love to show me how to use their toys to “do” their science experiments.
Thank you again for sharing your ideas.
790 Activity Points
Sat Apr 13, 2013 1:50 PM
Thank you Judy for sharing the links for making toys from inexpensive or recycled materials. I am especially intrigued by the last one, http://www.sciencetoymaker.org/ . When I went to the site it was so colorful and rich with ideas for all ages.
One of the most overlooked aspects of using toys is teaching students about systems, energy transfers and transformations. Dollar Trees are always my favorite place to discover toys that engage students, can be taken apart without worrying about making a huge investment and often involve a variety of pretty complex systems once you get them open and can see their inner workings.
I have also purchased a wide variety of toys that have totally amused my middle school students. The link to toys in Oriental Trading Company is http://www.orientaltrading.com/toys,-games-and-novelties-a1-550202-3-0.fltr . Several toys have risen to be perennial favorites, the “Flipping Wind Up Lady Bugs”, http://www.orientaltrading.com/flipping-wind-up-ladybugs-a2-...26&tabId=3 are quite phenomenal, as are the “Press and Go Dinosaurs”, http://www.orientaltrading.com/press-and-go-dinosaurs-a2-12_...26&tabId=3
Systems are such a tough concept, yet when you couple the learning with toys, students seem to be really successful at analyzing and problem solving how they work. After spending time with the toys, students are able to better analyze the world around them and make sense of systems as a whole. I have also found if I spend the time using toys and systems, students do better at understanding cycles as well.
A book I have found useful is “The Way Toys Work” by Ed and Woody Sobey, http://www.amazon.com/The-Way-Toys-Work-Boomerang/dp/1556527...+toys+work The authors have taken many toys from the past as well as some from modern day and explained how they work.
I love reading all of the ideas others have shared and look forward to seeing how others have used toys in their classrooms.
Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:06 AM
I, thin the idea of using children toys to teach is a very good idea and i will use that idea with my future students and use some of the nsta articles you guys are very help with all those bright ideas on how to teach students.
6395 Activity Points
Mon Apr 15, 2013 8:26 PM
And thank you for chiming in with your lively voice. If you have time to browse, you might look at some of the past threads in the forums on energy and heat. I recall that teachers chatted quite a bit about this topic and shared resources. I, too, will browse and see what is available. Meanwhile, let me share a collection of resources from the Learning Center on is it heat or is it temperature, a question that emerges from many science misconceptions held by children.
Chime in again. It's great to meet you.
Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:17 PM
I also am limited in my budget and us those parachute jumping animals/people to teach drag, thrust, wind resistance etc. The kids think its a game at first, but they quickly learn the have to apply what they know to keep the "parachutist" aloft.
2395 Activity Points
Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:23 PM
I also use straw shooters for almost any physics topics. You dont have to buy them even though they are readily available from science supply stores. I use this website as a place to let the kids begin and they modify from there. We do have contests (targets, distance, speed, etc. and, knock on wood, there have been no injuries :-)
My kids love the wild colored straws and crazy duct tape! I have added Minion duct tape to my arsenal for this year.
Thu Jan 16, 2014 10:50 AM
Later this year a new series of books will be published by NSTA Press on teaching physics with toys (and, for the lower grades, teaching physical science with toys).
Disclaimer: I'm one of the authors. (That's why I know about it and can tell you about it.)
The series will be called, "Phenomenon-Based Learning: Teaching Physics [or Physical Science] With Gadgets and Gizmos." There will be a book for the high-school level (physics), one for the middle-school level (physical science), and one for the elementary level (physical science). Optionally, there will also be kits of gadgets to go with the book that will be sold separately by Arbor Scientific. You might find these resources useful. Let me know if you have any questions about this.
Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky
3795 Activity Points
Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:21 PM
Just added a new collection for this subject
I would love more info on the new book!!
1880 Activity Points
Mon Jan 20, 2014 8:05 PM
Thanks for the heads up on the new book, Matt. Let's hope that one of the chapters is freely shared with LC members. It would be an incentive to purchase the book.
Mon Mar 10, 2014 10:49 PM
Hi. I teach k-5 Science Lab and I am looking for a really great activity to teach gravity to kindergarten students. This is my first year teaching k-5 science and the first year for my school to have a science lab so I don't have a lot of resources at my disposal. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
1140 Activity Points
Sun Mar 23, 2014 2:49 PM
[size=100]Patty, regarding my books on teaching physics with toys, I can probably start by sending you the introduction to the book, which describes the philosophy of teaching with toys (using Phenomenon-Based Learning -- PBL) and recommends some teaching approaches. What grade(s) do you teach?
Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky
University of Maryland
MSB Science, LLC
11300 Classical Ln
Silver Spring, MD 20901-5021
Tue Mar 25, 2014 8:39 PM
Thank you for your willingness to share from your publications and most of all from your experience. This forum and this thread is followed by teachers of physical science, K-12, but mostly middle school and high school. Perhaps you would like to share something aimed at both of these audiences- a post for middle school physical science and then another for high school physical science. We certainly look forward to resources available to teachers and to your ideas on PBL experiences.
Warm wishes to you...
Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:31 PM
[size=100]Hi, Patty (and everyone),
You can see the middle-school and high-school books here.
The elementary book will be out later in the year.
If you click on the link for any of the books and then scroll down, you can find a link for a sample chapter, which will let you preview the table of contents, introduction, a sample chapter, and the index. Let me know if you can't find it, or if you have any other questions.
Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky
University of Maryland
MSB Science, LLC
11300 Classical Ln
Silver Spring, MD 20901-5021
Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:36 PM
Thanks for your reply. When I go to the site and click on the e-version of the book, I receive a description of the book but not a sample chapter.
Here is the description for others to read:
What student—or teacher—can resist the chance to experiment with Rocket Launchers, Drinking Birds, Dropper Poppers, Boomwhackers, Flying Pigs, and more? The 54 experiments in Using Physics Gadgets and Gizmos, Grades 9–12, encourage your high school students to explore a variety of phenomena involved with pressure and force, thermodynamics, energy, light and color, resonance, buoyancy, two-dimensional motion, angular momentum, magnetism, and electromagnetic induction.
The authors say there are three good reasons to buy this book:
1. To improve your students’ thinking skills and problem-solving abilities
2. To acquire easy-to-perform experiments that engage students in the topic
3. To make your physics lessons waaaaay more cool
The phenomenon-based learning (PBL) approach used by the authors is as educational as the experiments are attention-grabbing. Instead of putting the theory before the application, PBL encourages students to first experience how the gadgets work and then grow curious enough to find out why. Students engage in the activities not as a task to be completed but as exploration and discovery.
The idea is to help your students go beyond simply memorizing physics facts. Using Physics Gadgets and Gizmos can help them learn broader concepts, useful critical-thinking skills, and science and engineering practices (as defined by the Next Generation Science Standards). And—thanks to those Boomwhackers and Flying Pigs—both your students and you will have some serious fun.
Ah!!!! There is a sample chapter on Pressure when you explore the text version of the book.
ype of Product: NSTA Press Book (also see downloadable PDF version of this book)
Publication Date: 4/1/2014
Stock Number: PB345X2
Grade Level: Middle School
Read Inside: Read a sample chapter: Air Pressure
As with many NSTA publications, this newly published book, April 1, 2014, will receive good press in Boston. Well done, Matt, and thanks for sharing. I am going to read the sample chapter.
I encourage other readers of this thread to download the sample chapter and to enjoy it, too.
Tue Apr 01, 2014 11:02 PM
Great topic! The students love playing with toys (hot wheels down tracks, frisbees, Newton's cradles, etc.) and do not even realize that they are learning science!!
8985 Activity Points
Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:40 PM
Stephen, I love your personal icon on the Learning Center. It is almost toy-like!
and yes, toys are wonderful tools for studying about science and for taking something home to share around the dinner table with other family members, too. Often we forget how exciting it is for a student to be able to bring home a neat discussion about science via toys.
Are there any special toys that you use with your students?
Thu Oct 23, 2014 9:06 PM
I don't teach high school, but I do teach magnetism in 3rd grade. I also use Hot Wheels to have a Magnet Derby. The kids absolutely love it! I haven't used many other toys in teaching science. What other types of toys and topics could be useful for teaching magnetism?
560 Activity Points
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