Text Size
Lesson Title: Heavy Duty Topics
May 11, 2012

Unit: Physical Science - Gravity

Grade Levels: 4-6

Connection To Curriculum: Science, Mathematics and Technology

Teacher Prep Time: 1 hour

Lesson Time Needed: 7.5 hours

Complexity Moderate

Keywords: gravity, inertia, weight, mass, period, periodic motion, center of mass, balance


2 pieces of wood 16"x2"x1"
2 pieces of wood 10"x2"x1"
Wood screws
8 corner brace triangles
Screw eyes
Rubber bands (size 19)
Fishing sinkers
Sewing needle
Small round balloons
Full liquid drink pouch and empty liquid drink pouch (1 set per group)
Mass scale
30 cm ruler (1 per group)
Safety goggles
Mass car template on cardstock (1 per group)
4 oz drinking cup (1 per group)
15 straight straws cut in half (1 set per group)
Party balloon air pump (1 per group)
Meter stick (1 per group)
Graph paper
15 pennies (1 set per group)
Tape measure (12' with spring release and lock button) (1 per group)
Stop watch (1 per group)
Washers (20 per group)
Ring or support stand
C clamp
Paper clips
2 film canisters or similar small container with lid (1 set per group)
Hacksaw blade (1 per group)
2 wood blocks (1 set per group)
Duct tape

This lesson guide integrates a series of activities highlighting the difference between mass and weight.

Students will:
• Distinguish between mass and weight.
• Demonstrate the use of an inertial balance.
• Evaluate the effect of mass and string length on the period of a pendulum.

First page of Heavy Duty Topics

Lesson Guide
Heavy Duty Lesson
[108KB PDF file]



Lesson Activities and Sequence
The suggested sequence starts by introducing students to the concept of microgravity then the distinction between mass and weight, and ends with a method of determining mass in the microgravity environment.

  1. Falling Weight Apparatus
    Students use a simple apparatus to explore the difference between gravity and microgravity.
    Keywords: gravity, weight, mass, center of mass, balance

  2. Mass vs. Weight
    Students perform a series of experiments and compare their results to those of astronauts on the International Space Station. Stretching mass, air-powered mass and accelerating mass are the most relevant activities to this lesson.
    Keywords: gravity, mass, weight, balance, inertia

  3. Pendulums
    Students explore the effect of mass and string length on the period of a pendulum.
    Keywords: gravity, mass, pendulum, friction, motion

  4. Inertial Balance
    Students calibrate an inertial balance and then use it to determine an unknown mass.
    Keywords: gravity, balance, inertia, mass, weight

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.

Physical Science
• Motions and forces.
• Transfer of energy.

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
• Science and technology in society.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Numbers and Operations
• Perform operations with multidigit whole numbers and with decimals to hundredths.

Measurement and data
• Represent and interpret data.

Expressions and Equations
• Reason about and solve one-variable equations and inequalities.

ISTE NETS and Performance Indicators for Students, ISTE
Creativity and Innovation
• Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.


Image Token: 
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator