# Inertia Tower

Contributor
Perkins School for the Blind Stu Grove
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Experiment/Lab Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

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## Description

In these activities, students explore the concept of inertia.  They try to keep a block tower standing when cards are pulled from between the blocks, then compare with what happens when they try the same activity with lighter objects such as paper cups.  A variation is included in which students pull a large cardboard box a certain distance while being timed, then try again as people of different masses sit inside the box.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
• Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

#### Performance Expectations

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.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on balanced (Newton’s First Law) and unbalanced forces in a system, qualitative comparisons of forces, mass and changes in motion (Newton’s Second Law), frame of reference, and specification of units.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to forces and changes in motion in one-dimension in an inertial reference frame and to change in one variable at a time. Assessment does not include the use of trigonometry.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

This activity would work well as an investigation midway through a study of forces, mass and motion. It will be helpful for students to be familiar with the concept of balanced forces vs. unbalanced forces, to help them construct explanations for the phenomenon of inertia. Students might already be familiar with ideas about friction, or the activity could lead to the idea of friction, via the question of “Why do the blocks move when we pull the card slowly but not when we pull it quickly?” The variation activity is useful to include as it expands the focus from inertia to acceleration, and the effect of mass on acceleration. Students do not plan their own investigation in this lesson, so while this activity encourages them to consider variables and collect data, it is not suitable as an assessment for this Performance Expectation.

#### Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

The scientific question offered for investigation is a rather general “What’s going on here?” which makes this an appropriate phenomenon for a lesson about inertia. Students are asked to gather qualitative data via observation. They are asked to observe the blocks’ behavior, and to compare it to the behavior of paper cups in the same setup. The variation activity has students collect quantitative data about the amount of time required to move a box a certain distance. This data should be used as a springboard to explain ideas of inertia and forces. The relationship between force and acceleration is also touched upon.

#### Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Observation of the “blocks” phenomenon is intended to lead students via discussion to the idea of inertia. . The comparison of blocks to cups addresses the relationship between mass and force, and the variation brings acceleration (change in motion) into the mix. It is recommended that students experience the phenomenon before being introduced to the vocabulary at the beginning of the lesson. The first part of the Core Idea (motion related to the sum of forces) could be made clearer by asking students to identify the forces working on the blocks and to determine if the forces are balanced or unbalanced.

#### Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.