Curricular Unit: What Are Newton's Laws?

Contributed by: RESOURCE GK-12 Program, College of Engineering, University of California Davis

Quick Look

Grade Level: 6 (5-7)

Choose From: 3 lessons and 1 activities

Subject Areas: Physical Science, Physics

Three images: A photograph shows three people starting a race down a street, one on a bicycle, one on a scooter, one on in-line skates. An oil portrait of Sir Isaac Newton, a man with a fine nose and shoulder-length wavy blond hair. The space shuttle launches straight up into the sky with plumes of white puffy smoke around its platform and fire from its rockets.
Newton's laws of motion explain the movement of everyday objects and are important to engineers who design machines, structures and products.
copyright
Copyright © (left, right) 2004 Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399 USA. All rights reserved; (middle) 1689 Sir Godfrey Kneller, Wikimedia Commons http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=scooter&ex=1#ai:MP900425518| http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689.jpg http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=vehicle&ex=1#ai:MP900414117|mt:2|

Summary

Through a series of three lessons and one activity, students are introduced to inertia, forces and Newton's three laws of motion. For each lesson, a combination of class demonstrations and PowerPoint® presentations are used to explain, show and relate the concepts to engineering. Lesson 1 starts with inertia, forces and Newton's first law of motion. Lesson 2 builds on lesson 1 with s review and then introduces Newton's second law of motion. Lesson 3 builds on the previous two lessons with a review and then introduces Newton's third law of motion. In a culminating activity, students apply their knowledge of forces, friction, acceleration and gravity in an experiment to measure the average acceleration of a textbook pulled along a table by varying weights, and then test the effects of friction on different surfaces.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Engineers apply basic physics concepts such as Newton's laws of motion in a wide range of situations such as designing all sorts of stationary and moving objects, from the massive to the delicate. This includes structures, vehicles and objects such as bridges, rockets, aircraft, seat belts, door knobs and medicine delivery systems. To design objects that perform as we want and are safe, engineers must fully understand the workings of the natural physical laws. Learning how Newton's laws apply in everyday situations and devices enables students to be able to describe how objects move and prepares them for the study of more complex physics concepts.

Unit Overview

Newton's first law of motion: Unless an unbalanced force acts on an object, an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.

Newton's second law of motion: Force = mass x acceleration (aka F=ma)

Newton's third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

MS-PS2-2. Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object's motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object. (Grades 6 - 8)

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This unit focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Plan an investigation individually and collaboratively, and in the design: identify independent and dependent variables and controls, what tools are needed to do the gathering, how measurements will be recorded, and how many data are needed to support a claim.

Alignment agreement:

Science knowledge is based upon logical and conceptual connections between evidence and explanations.

Alignment agreement:

The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion.

Alignment agreement:

All positions of objects and the directions of forces and motions must be described in an arbitrarily chosen reference frame and arbitrarily chosen units of size. In order to share information with other people, these choices must also be shared.

Alignment agreement:

Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales.

Alignment agreement:

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  • Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object's motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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Unit Schedule

Each lesson and activity is designed to take 60-minutes, for a total of four 60-minute sessions for the unit. The teaching style, depth of instruction and student level may cause the lessons to take more or less time.

The suggested order to conduct the lessons and activity in the unit:

Day 1: What Is Newton's First Law?

Day 2: What Is Newton's Second Law?

Day 3: What Is Newton's Third Law?

Day 4: Sliding Textbooks

Assessment

The individual lessons include assessment suggestions to implement throughout the unit (discussion questions, exit ticket, homework, etc.). In addition, a summative assessment unit quiz is provided as an attachment to lesson 3, to be administered after completion of all three lessons and the activity.

Other Related Information

The San Francisco Exploratorium provides a list of 17 classroom demonstrations of Newton's laws of motion that you may want to incorporate into the unit, in addition to those already provided. See http://www.exo.net/~donr/activities/Newton's_Laws_Demonstrations.pdf

Contributors

Elizabeth Anthony, Scott Strobel, Jacob Teter

Copyright

© 2014 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2013 University of California Davis

Supporting Program

RESOURCE GK-12 Program, College of Engineering, University of California Davis

Acknowledgements

The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed by the Renewable Energy Systems Opportunity for Unified Research Collaboration and Education (RESOURCE) project in the College of Engineering under National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. DGE 0948021. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: September 9, 2019

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