# Earth and Space Science

Gravity

Hello fellow science lovers! I'm teaching fourth grade science in Hawaii and need to cover Earth's gravitational pull as a result of its mass. In the past I've done discussions and note-taking, I know there are videos out there but does anyone have other ways to present or experiment with the concept of gravity and Earth's mass causing the gravitational pull? I haven't finished the scipack for it yet but the first quarter's coming to an end. Let me know if you have any resources or experiments that have worked well for you!

Sherilynn Chang
1210 Activity Points

Hi! I also teach fourth grade and I am doing the scipack for gravity. This is my first year teaching fourth grade, so I haven't really tried this experiment yet. But I am a huge fan of BrainPop. It's an online program that focuses on all subject areas in a kid friendly way. You do need to subscribe to it, but you can also sign up for the free trial. I hope this is something you were looking for... On BrainPop, they have a short video about gravity. On the same page, there are activities and experiments to go along with the video. One of the experiments (which you would need to modify) is to use a mattress, two objects of different weights (bowling ball and a flower pot), and a couple of marbles. You place the two objects apart on the mattress and set a marble in the middle of the two objects. The students will record which direction the marble rolls. Of course, the marble will roll to the heavier object and you can explain that that's how it works in space. When an object is between two planets, the more massive a planet, the stronger the gravitational pull. You would need to modify the lesson to fit the space for your classroom, but this was the best activity that I could find on how to introduce gravitation pull to the students. Hope this helps! Please let me know if you fin anything else!

Nohelani Kunishige
2060 Activity Points

Here is link to an interesting article that explains gravity in a very easy to understand way. I hope this is helpful to you. The title is "Science 101: What Is Gravity?".

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Science 101: What Is Gravity? (Journal Article)

Betty Paulsell
48540 Activity Points

Karina Alfaro
1185 Activity Points

Thank you for this great article! It was very informative!

Lydia Montero
1055 Activity Points

I would definitely probe students for their understanding of gravity at the start of the unit. I found this great chapter to use from NSTA that I'll upload. Although this thread is specifically for 4th grade, the "pre-assessment" can be used for secondary students as well.

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Joy Agard
2190 Activity Points

All your posts remind me of using the movie Apollo 13, a fictional documentary about America's third moon landing mission. I haven't seen it in a few years, but I remember that awesome feeling of being in outer space and looking at the earth from above. The movie has some scenes from a reduced gravity aircraft that gives that feeling of weightlessness.

Jennifer Perry
2250 Activity Points

Ahmed Mohamed Saiid Selim
830 Activity Points

With my fourth graders we do our own version of the videos that are in the Gravity SciPack. I do a demonstration in class with a basketball and tennis and I have the students create a question that we can do an experiment on. I drop the basketball and tennis and have them write observations. I hope their is one student who notices that the two objects hit the ground at the same time. Then I have the students created their own tests to prove that two similar objects that are not affected by the air will land at the same time when dropped from the same height. We try to prove this by taking the time measurements of both objects as we drop them from the third floor of my school's building. We go through the whole scientific process and talk about error and human error and at the end we do prove that gravity acts the same on both objects. The students love dropping things from the 3rd floor and everyone in the group has to work as a team to succeed. They love it!

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

It's really fun to teach and give examples to students that gravity is an attraction force that attracts objects but I really wonder if someday in the future we'll probably discover what gravity truly is. I am more into Eintein's general relativity which describes gravity not as a mysterious force but as a curvature in space-time. The idea that the mass of the sun curves the Earth in space is just insane. Einstein had redefine the concept of gravity and I think it's a great concept because it allowed us to view a flexible universe rather than a stationary universe. Our universe has infinite possibilities and students who like science should be inspire by the mystery that gravity still holds to this day.

3990 Activity Points

If you are looking for an experiment type of activity for gravity, you could try and use magnets. The larger a magnet, usually the stronger the pull. Likewise, the greater the mass the stronger the gravitational pull. Magnets would also help illustrate the effect distance has on gravity. The farther magnets are from each other, the weaker the pull. If you are looking to expand students' understanding of gravity you could ask them questions that require them to transfer their knowledge of gravity to unknown situations. For example, I may pick a smaller student in class and have him/her stand next to me. I ask students to pretend we are objects in space and to decide who would orbit who based on mass and gravity. I also show students a line up of the planets. We look and decide based on their observations which planet would have the strongest gravitational pull (and what that may look like if we were trying to run) and which planet would have the weakest gravitational pull. We also determine which planet would have a gravitational pull similar to Earth's. All these situations reemphasize how mass affects gravity.

Denise Karratti
820 Activity Points

I have seen a lesson using magnets and it was fantastic! Great idea :)

Lydia Montero
1055 Activity Points

I never thought of using magnets to teach about gravity. Thanks for sharing. I love everyone's ideas.

Janice Eala
1565 Activity Points

That's what I thought too. Great example.

3990 Activity Points

Hey Denise, Thanks for the great idea about using the magnets to teach about gravity. I have so many magnets in my class and in different sizes that I could totally do this with my kids. I love that the SciPack has the equations in it so I might teach them the high school level equation to have them figure out the pull of the different sized magnets on each other just so they could practice using the calculator and work on their exponents. Thanks again!

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

Did anyone do the gravity and orbit scipak? Holy guacamole it's hard. So many formulas and thinking outside of the norm.

Janice Eala
1565 Activity Points

I know, I wish I took better notes, because while I passed on my first try (just barely), I was bummed that I couldn't retake the test for a better score.

Tabitha Booth
3385 Activity Points

I am also a big fan of BrainPop! I remember using it growing up as a kid and it gives really basic, yet extremely helpful introductions to main concepts. The videos are also very engaging and child-oriented. I looked up the link for the Gravity BrainPop: http://www.brainpop.com/science/motionsforcesandtime/gravity/preview.weml Also, you could discuss in class how gravity affects our daily lives on a small scale but also on a larger scale. Yes, gravity is what keeps our feet on the ground, but it is also the Sun's gravitational pull that keeps our Earth in orbit and prevents it from floating away.

Katarina Lincalis
2340 Activity Points

What great lessons about gravity. I'm also a fourth grade teacher. I can't wait to try some of these experiments. I never thought about using a basketball and baseball to compare about gravity. I thought that it was great. I imagined placing a bowling ball in the mix as it is about the same size of a basketball but one is more dense and weighs more. Using different types of balls and throwing them onto the dirt to create indentations could mimic some of the land formations we have on earth. It could also explain about the force upon impact that it made on the land. I'm sure gravity could be a factor when the ball created a crater. Thanks for the ideas.

Eugene Pascual
1055 Activity Points

Many thanks to all who have contributed! Ahmed, I love that kid-friendly site you linked and will definitely use it in the class. Brainpop is definitely on my top ten list as well. Denise, I absolutely love the magnet idea. Now to scramble up some magnets! Ryan, thank you for the experiment using their observations and inferences in the ball drop. That's another one of the fourth grade standards! After watching some videos, I am so excited to launch some gravity experiments!

Sherilynn Chang
1210 Activity Points

Sherilynn, let me know how the experiments go. I also use Mythbusters and their episode on whether or not a buttered toast will land butter side up or butter side down as a great experiment on gravity. We talk about the results from our experiment and talk about why we get those results. I drop the buttered toast from the second floor of our office building and then we incorporate gravity discussions about it. I love it and the kids love dropping things off the building. I can incorporate so much from this Gravity SciPack to help us understand why the toast drops. I also want to try the scale and elevator experiment and I talked to my principal and she loved it. Now I need to find an elevator that wouldn't mind 37 kids waiting for it to do gravity observations.

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

Ryan, I am always inspired by your posts! You reminded me that I wanted to do the elevator experiment, too! There's an elevator right next to my classroom that the custodians use. I need to ask the principal if I can use it for gravity lessons. I love the idea of dropping things off the second floor as well. My students are going to have a fun second quarter! Thank you for posting!

Joy Agard
2190 Activity Points

Hey Joy, You're so lucky. I was talking to my principal about a walking field trip to the nearest Safeway where they have an elevator from the second floor parking lot to the store. I would take my students there to try the elevator and scale theory and see if it worked. Just as long as I don't disturb anyone it should be okay and maybe some elevator riders would want to try. That would be cool! Have fun dropping things off the buildings. My fourth graders love it and they always remember it! Ryan

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

Would it be possible to get the link for the buttered toast/Myth buster video? I too am looking for great ideas for gravity!! Thank you!!

Monica Holloway
2990 Activity Points

Hi Monica, Here you go! It's on YouTube as well as the Discovery Education website if you have access to that great program. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7BEMAk9weQ

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

I teach 6th grade science. Do you think I would be able to use Discovery Education quite a bit? What is the fee for it?

Monica Holloway
2990 Activity Points

I teach 6th grade science. Do you think I would be able to use Discovery Education quite a bit? I am willing to pay the fee but wasn't sure if it is mostly for younger grades or particular content areas. Thank you.

Monica Holloway
2990 Activity Points

Monica, I'm not sure how much the fee is. The state of Hawaii paid for all of the elementary schools to get access to Discovery Education. It is full of great things for all grade levels. The site links things to everything the Discovery Channel has. I'm not sure what you need to do to get access. Maybe discuss with your school district. I hope this helps.

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

Another extremely easy demonstration you can do is to use a spring and masses. The heaver the mass the longer the string will stretch towards the earth (because weight is, after all, a measure of the Earth's gravity on a mass!). More mass, more pull, less mass, less pull!

Tina Harris
65560 Activity Points

Last year was my first year teaching fourth grade and one quick activity I did to show gravity and mass was by using two water bottles. They have to be the exact same water bottles. From there i filled one bottle completely with water while the other bottle was only filled half way. Before I dropped both bottles i asked them to predict which bottle will fall faster. Of course most of them chose the bottle that was completely filled with water. I then took them outside and dropped both bottles at the same time. They were shocked to see that both bottles fell at the same time because their mass was the same. Even though they didn't weigh the same, their mass was the same thus resulting in both bottles falling at the same time. It is a small demonstration but I think that it helped them gain a better idea of mass and gravity. I also used brain pop jr to show them gravity as well. It is a wonderful tool no matter what grade your student is. I hope this made sense. Good luck!

Eve Nishikawa
3190 Activity Points

Tina, Where is a good place to find inexpensive springs for classroom use? Thanks!!

Monica Holloway
2990 Activity Points

Tina, Where is a good place to find inexpensive springs for classroom use? Thanks!!

Monica Holloway
2990 Activity Points

I would look online on ebay or amazon.

Eve Nishikawa
3190 Activity Points

Tina, I just found a website for the kids to explore that has the same basic concept of the springs and masses experiment! Thanks to the Gravity and Orbits SciGuide, I saw this! For those of you who are in a bind for finding the right kind of spring and getting your hands on weights, this website is the one for you!

Eve, I love the water bottle experiment and I'm going to try it out. I can't wait to see their reactions and make the relationship between mass and weight.

Sherilynn Chang
1210 Activity Points

I will definitely have to do another demonstration with Eve's water bottles. I love dropping things from the third floor of my building. Update on my gravity drops: The students have started their gravity dropping experiments and they have been taking data with their stopwatches. We have also incorporated video with our classroom iPad. One member of the students' team takes the video of the drop and then we can go back and pause the video during parts of the fall to show how the objects are relative to each other during the descent. This comes in real handy. The kids love using technology. I was also taking to the STEM resource teachers to see if they had any devices to measure time as the objects land and hit the ground. They may have a pad that will stop the timer as the objects land on the pad. I will keep you all updated on that.

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

As child I fantasized about digging a hole to China In this video adapted from NOVA scienceNOW, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson illustrates what would happen if we could fall through the earh. First he defines the conditionsâ€”ignore the effects of air resistance, temperature, and Earth's rotationâ€”and then he travels through the hole. A timer and speedometer show how his speed changes as he falls toward the center of Earth, passes the center, and slows to a stop at the opposite end of the hole. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/content/oer08.sci.phys.maf.gravitynsn/?utm_source=affinity&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=102212

Pamela Auburn
68505 Activity Points

Might be a little advanced for 4th grade...but another great Mythbusters episode regarding gravity is the Bullet Fired vs Bullet dropped episode. The idea is that a projectile falls at the same rate as an item dropped, therefore if I dropped a bullet and fired one from the same height at the same time they should hit the ground at the same time. My high school students didn't believe that to be true. We tried to do experiments testing a marble rolled off the table and one dropped at the same time, but there was sooo much error involved. The mythbusters go through a few bad ideas before they get the right one and eventually show that both hit at the same time(within milliseconds of each other). Even after seeing it on the show, the kids still didn't beleive it.

Chris Leverington
3900 Activity Points

Chris, I have a marble projectile launcher that also has a place for marble to be released so it will free fall. It releases both marbles at the time and you can hear them hit simultaneously. Perhaps you can get a hold of one and demonstrate it to your students. If you cannot, I will film mine so your students can witness it.

Ruth Hutson
58840 Activity Points

Chris and Ruth, thank you so much for your examples. I love the bullet episode from Mythbusters and I think I could make something similar to the marble launcher and dropper. My students still don't truly understand that the two objects hit the ground simultaneously. I gave an assessment based off of the demonstrations I did in class and the beginning drops in class and they still feel that heavier objects land faster than lighter, similar objects. I need to still "prove" to them that gravity works similarly on objects. Thank you for your great examples and I will keep you all posted.

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

Gravity update part 2: My students have done their experiments with at least three drops but they still have the belief that the heavier object lands first. I gave a formative assessment to see what they know and what they are thinking and they still feel that the heavier object lands first. I showed them the example from the moon with the hammer and the feather. They also have trouble explaining that gravity is pulling the objects to the center of the Earth. I will give them more examples and try some of the things that you have shared. Thank you all.

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

It's funny that I posted the original question but I wanted to come back full circle to say that I've used many of the resources and ideas that other posters have put up. I also came up with a few of my own and borrowed from other colleagues. We are always asking our kids the big question: why is this important to know? So many times kids give the generic answer of "to know more" or "to teach others about it". (Does anyone else experience this?)

I've been big on engineering projects and we did two together: the marshmallow challenge and project crayon box. Project crayon box's objective is to have a piece of folder paper hold up a full crayon box in mid-air without laying on a flat surface or having any member's body parts holding a part of the paper and they were able to use any other materials.

At the end of it, I asked the students what force was acting on the marshmallow and crayon box, how did it make building the structures difficult, what does that mean for architects, engineers, construction, building structures, etc. The great thing is that they could discuss it with each other and myself.

It also just so happens that we have Chris Van Allsburg's book, Zathura. There is an example of what could happen if the gravity on Earth were different. It was a great cross-curricular discussion that stretched their thoughts and understandings of gravity. Many times we talk about not having gravity and floating but we forget to talk about the reverse in having a larger gravitational force and not being able to lift our feet off the ground.

All-in-all, I went from not knowing how to best teach gravity to really loving it! Thanks everyone!

Sherilynn Chang
1210 Activity Points

What a great activity to share Sheri. I really like how you tied in Science and language arts with an engaging activity. I should try that in my classroom. Thanks for the information.

Eugene Pascual
1055 Activity Points

I teach a freshman physical sci class and we do the classic egg drop lab. The lab takes several days to do as I have them do a research and design of several materials they think they might want to use to cushion their egg when it is in a paper bag. I have them sketch and label their design and present to the class why they chose their materials. They then build their design and we drop them from 1m, 3m, and 9m. I really encourage creative designs and have had students put their egg in the bag suspended with rubber bands and another put in the middle of a bowl of jello inside the bag...great fun and so many kids weren't afraid to think outside the box even though they failed.

David Hanke
2395 Activity Points

Sherilynn, Thanks for sharing those two great resources. I will definitely like to do those projects. I'm excited to get ready. Thank you again. I loved the gravity lessons that I've been doing and I thank all of you for sharing everything you guys use in your classrooms. Ryan

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

David, Thanks for sharing about your egg drop lab. I do that with my fourth graders too. I too have them design, sketch and label their contraptions. The fourth graders also have to use recyclable materials to create their egg drop vehicle. They also have to be able to easily remove the egg. The students also have a certain volume that their egg drop contraption needs to be no bigger than. I want to incorporate more STEM things with my project this year.

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

The other thing my class will be doing this week is the butter side up or the butter side down toast drop. The students will watch the Mythbusters espisode introduction and determine whether or not a slice of buttered toast will land butter side up or butter side down. The students will explain whether or not the toast will land one way or the other and explain using gravity. My students will predict what will happen and we will drop on Friday. We are going to do our own version of Mythbusters. It should be fun.

Ryan Towata
3340 Activity Points

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