Relating to Newton's Second Law

Activity Overview: 

Students study the relationship between the three variables in Newton's Second Law. By designing an experiment the students test relationships among the variables.

Students will -

  • Control variables in a lab situation

  • Work cooperatively with members of a team

  •  Design an experiment to achieve desired result

  •  Control variables in an experiment.

  • Analyze data to construct graphs and determine relationships.

Students will study the relationships of the 3 variables in Newton's Second Law.  By designing an experiment the students will test relationships among the variables.

(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.)



Curriculum Standards from http://www.intime/


National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators from

Prelab Planning

Prelab planning is the time when students have the following jobs.

-Determine their course of action, what are the variables tested, how are we going to control the variables, etc…

-Determine experiment design and what equipment is needed.

-Construct a format to collect the data

-Determine what each person in the group is responsible for.

Science 9-12: A1, A2, E1, E2

Grades 9-12:  10  


Lab Activity

-Students will take their design and perform the experiment and record the data they receive.

-Students will also make quick evaluations of the design and make corrections if they encounter difficulty.

Science 9-12: A1, A2, B4, E3

Grades 9-12: 8  


Post Lab Discussion

Post lab is very critical.  They are now going to look at the data collected and try to determine relationships among variable.  They will also try to determine if their data is "good" or if they need to change something and do the experiment over. If there is no relationship found they will redesign and perform it again.

Science 9-12: A1, A2, B4, E4, E5

Grades 9-12:  10  



Laptop Computers  
ULI interface. Available:
Photogates.  Available:

Software included in the Vernier package. 

Students will be asked to reproduce a similar activity on an individual basis throughout the school year.   Assessment can occur in the Application phase of the Learning cycle.

Bob Munson, Grundy Center High School, Grundy Center, Iowa 

An influential person for this lesson is Dr. Roy Unruh, Physics Education instructor at the University of Northern Iowa.

This usually occurs in the fall of the year.  The students were re-enacting.  The activity usually does not take over two class periods.   The planning period and post lab were much shorter than normal

This is just one of several activities taught in this manner in my classroom.   Students of this age need to be able to recognize variables and design experiments to test relationships.  All of my activities follow a presentation of a problem or variables to be tested scenario.

Technology Resources   
Laptop Computers, ULI interface from Vernier,  Photogates from Vernier and software included in the Vernier package.  

School Background Information:
The population of Grundy Center, Iowa is 2700 people. The majority of parents are employed; a lot of people work in manufacturing and agriculture-related jobs, as well as farming. The enrollment in our district is 710. None of our students have limited English fluency. There are 98-99% of Caucasian people, 1-2% other, mostly Asian.

Teaching Strategy: 
Pre Lab Planning  -----> Lab ------> Post Lab     (Learning   Cycle   Approach)

The pre-lab-post best fits the scientific process.   Prelab would coincide with identifying the problem and designing a test to see what the relationships among variable are.   Lab is where the experiment is performed and data collected.   Post Lab is to evaluate results and report findings.

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity
(Note:  This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

Principles of Learning: 
Compelling  Situation: The idea that students know there are three variables involved but do not know the relationship between them is compelling.  Since these students were young they know about force acceleration and mass, now they are going to find the relationship between the three.  One of the neat parts of Physics is that often times it explains mathematically what you already have experienced in daily life.

Active Involvment: All of the students were actively involved with the equipment during the experiment.  They were also actively involved with each other.  Students had several small discussions with each other during the post lab that allowed them to voice their opinion and contribute to the group's goal.

Direct Experience: Science activities like this are almost totally direct experience. Students will remember what they have done and the whole thing is designed to reinforce the concept they need.  All the activities taking place in the lab was direct experience but most importantly is the post lab discussion when what they have seen and touched is related to the concept being covered.

Information Processing: 
Interpretation: The post lab discussion is where the students look at the relationships between Force and Acceleration and determine if the directly or inversely related. The same is true for force and mass and also mass and acceleration. 

Evaluation: I am continually watching students and I am constantly looking for thought in their process.  This is not a "cook book" lab.   I also ask student why they are doing it the way they are and if they are getting the data they need.  In the post lab I am looking for understanding from students.  Do they really understand the relationships or are they trying to explain away the data without regard for results.  My questioning is not intended to lead but to allow students to form their own concept of what they saw and what their data tells them.

Tolerance:   Students must work together and must be tolerant of the views of each other regardless of economic and social background of their working partners.  Students must work together to come to consensus and demonstrate Tolerance of the decisions of other groups.

Critical Thinking and Decision Making:  Students need to think critically as individuals and be able to communicate their ideas, thoughts, and plans to the others of the groups.  It is very important in the planning stages of the activity to visualize and identify possible design flaws and oversights in the experiment design.

Thinking Together and Making Meaning:  Students must come to consensus as a group in all stages of this activity.  The design is a group design, the activity is performed by all, and finally the interpretation of results is reported by the entire group after consensus has been achieved.

Individual Responsibility:  All students have a responsibility in the experiment, interpretation and reporting of results.  The group must decide on these Responsibilities before the experimentation can begin.

Empowerment:  This open-ended activity allows students to step out of the normal routine of the school day.  They are allowed a great bit of freedom and must take control of their learning experience.  "Going through the motions" does not work in this environment.  Students must take the initiative in their own learning.  They are responsible for all the stages in this learning experience.  Students have to make the active choice to learn or to not participate to extent needed.  Motivation by the instructor will hopefully help students to make the proper decision.: 

Student Characteristics
Students at this age usually do a pretty good job sharing skills and pair off in decent groups early in the year. The higher the academic level of a group the more in-depth you can go in the post lab discussion.

How the Activity Has Evolved Over Time:
When we first started this activity it was done with a ticker tape machine. Using the lab interface equipment we have cut the time needed in half.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology