Science of NHL Hockey: Newton's Three Laws of Motion

NBC Learn
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Animation/Movie , Experiment/Lab Activity
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.



This resource pairs an educational video that examines Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion in the sport of hockey with a lab activity exploring the three laws. In the lab activity, students are encouraged to design their own experiments and/or demonstrations about the Laws of Motion, though a suggested student demonstration is also provided for each law. (The link opens a small video window. To find the lesson plan, click the tab at the right hand side of the video window, that says “Lessons”.)

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
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.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The lesson plan gives options for students to create their own demonstrations for each one of Newton’s Laws of Motion or use suggested demonstrations. To meet the PE, students will need to design their own demonstrations, and alter variables within the demonstration framework (to ensure that the demonstration becomes an investigation, not simply a one-time happening). The demonstrations given in the lesson plan could perhaps function as teacher-led examples, or as jumping-off points for students requiring more direct support. Since the PE involves all three of Newton’s Laws directly or indirectly, a teacher might encourage students to develop just one demonstration, and explain how that one demonstration is related to all three Laws, in order to underscore how the change in motion relies on a force, and that particular force relies on the masses and acceleration involved. There is also some overlap between this PE and MS-PS-2-1 (Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects). A teacher could require that the demonstration about change in motion also involve some sort of collision. While that alone would not directly address “designing a solution to a collision problem”, it would give students practice with colliding objects, on their way to eventually meeting that standard.

Science and Engineering Practices

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

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The stated objectives of the lesson plan are to design and carry out demonstrations of each of Newton’s three laws of motion. The plan has students coming up with their own demo, or using a suggested demo, in order to show that Newton’s Laws of Motion work. The student lab sheet has spots for data and observations, analysis of data, and conclusions. One way to incorporate the “evaluate and/or revise the experimental design” portion of this practice might be to have students present their models to the class, and have classmates give and receive feedback about the clarity and quality of evidence of their presentations. Students could then use that feedback to revise their demonstrations, based on their classmates’ evaluations of the effectiveness of the demonstration in showing that there is a relationship between forces and motion and between masses and motion.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
While the lesson explicitly has students planning a demonstration/activity, it is only implied that the activity would follow the experimental norms of identifying variables and determining how much evidence is sufficient. The lesson plan implies that the one demonstration would count as sufficient evidence. The student lab sheet does have spaces where students are expected to write a hypothesis and a procedure, record data and analyze the data. A teacher would need to expand upon this lab sheet in order to have students meet all parts of this Practice. Possible sections could include a place for students to identify the independent and dependent variable in their investigation, and a data table to record results of several replicates and several variations of the independent variable.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Student demonstrations will certainly involve at least some of this DCI, but without specific direction, they may not involve all parts. For example, a demonstration might show the effect of mass on motion if force remains the same, while another student’s demonstration might show different forces’ effects on the same mass. Student demonstrations are not likely to show what happens if the net force on an object IS zero. To make sure that all the parts of the DCI are addressed by the class, the teacher could require that each student demonstrations show all of the above, or the teacher could assign specific portions of the above to different students/groups.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The idea of multiple causes is implied by the idea that all three of Newton’s Laws are in play at once. This comes across a little more clearly in the video clip than in the student lab. If each student demonstration were required to demonstrate all of Newton’s Laws, then this could lead to a discussion about how ALL the laws affect ALL motions, e.g. that more than one thing is happening at a time in order to cause the motions that we see.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson plan as written involves using a Practice to illustrate a Core Idea. The connection to a cross-cutting concept is implied but would need some teacher emphasis to be brought to the forefront.

  • Instructional Supports: This activity links to real-world phenomena that are likely to be familiar to students. The video clip begins with explanations about the science concepts demonstrated in a game of hockey, which is likely to be high interest to some students. This video clip is closed-captioned, making it accessible to a wider student audience. The next step in the lesson’s progression is for students to create their own demonstrations, using familiar everyday objects. Opportunities abound for teacher scaffolding and differentiation. Though these opportunities are not spelled out in the lesson plan, the plan implies that a teacher can give more or less guidance in students’ designing of demonstrations, and in the types of materials that can be offered. Extensions, in the form of further websites and video clips, are offered at the end of the lesson plan.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson plan gives examples of questions that teachers can ask. These questions can function as formative assessments. The student lab sheet can act as a summative assessment for both the Practice and the DCI, though no rubric or scoring guide is provided.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The only technological piece is a non-interactive video clip. A teacher can show this to the students via digital projector. This is a free-use lesson; teachers at schools with a paid subscription can also put the video into a playlist for student access.