Investigating Motion: What Causes Objects to Move?

Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College Mack, Jeanne
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan , 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.


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Most Recent Review

4 What causes objects to move?

I've done a similar lab. my set was different. We also used water to move objects.and air from a balloon I like the references to strand ect.


In this lesson, students will be given a set of everyday objects and asked to make predictions on how far each object will move when they blow on it. They will then measure the distances the objects moved and record their data and observations in their science journals. The observations and/or measurements of the object’s motion will then be applied to provide evidence of a pattern that can be used to predict future motion.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 2
  • Grade 3
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

3-PS2-2 Make observations and/or measurements of an object’s motion to provide evidence that a pattern can be used to predict future motion.

Clarification Statement: Examples of motion with a predictable pattern could include a child swinging in a swing, a ball rolling back and forth in a bowl, and two children on a see-saw.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include technical terms such as period and frequency.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In the anticipatory set, an awareness should develop that if the amount of force applied remains constant, the distance an object travels is contingent upon its mass. The effects of friction on the motion of these objects could also be tested. The amount of force applied is a variable that is difficult to control but provides for a teachable moment about the how variables in an investigation affect its outcome. Having the students blow through a straw is suggested to mitigate some the health concerns as a result of students blowing aggressively. Using a device such as a nasal nose aspirator would also address health concerns as well as provide some control with the amount of force applied. With these suggestions implemented, a pattern of observation and measurement should emerge as they proceed through the trials, and predictions about the future motion of objects should become increasingly accurate. Patterns in the observations and measurements can then be easily made explicit through a facilitated discussion.

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
In this lesson, students will make observations and take measurements to produce data that will enable them to make evidence-based explanations of the phenomena. The data does not serve as a basis for evidence in testing a design solution as this is not an engineering challenge. To make this lesson more rigorous for third graders, students could plan a guided inquiry based on the wonderings they have after this initial investigation. For example, students might test the effects of increasing amounts of force or the effects of friction (which is an opposing force) on the motion of these objects. This could provide the opportunity for students to make predictions about its effect on distance traveled before testing. As students draw their conclusions, they could also be guided to cite specific data to support a claim that the evidence reveals a pattern which can be used to predict future motion.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The inclusion of additional objects to this investigation selected by the students themselves may be helpful in providing additional evidence that there is a pattern in their observations and measurements. Predictions should be elicited, with further investigation conducted to test the validity of their predictions.

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
If this lesson is implemented as recommended, students should see a pattern in their observations and measurements whereby the lighter objects (or objects with less mass) will travel farther than the heavier objects (objects with more mass). If also testing the effects of friction, students will observe that objects on surfaces with more friction will not travel as far as those on surfaces with less friction. Students might then be asked to apply these patterns to make predictions regarding the motion of additional objects, and test their predictions. It is suggested that the students continue to document their observations and measurements in their journal to analyze the evidence of the patterns.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson enables students to make observations and take measurements to provide evidence that serves as the basis for an explanation of a phenomena. Students will observe that blowing on objects creates a force which results in the movement or motion of objects. With guidance from the teacher, students will see that the data reveals a pattern of movement from which future motion can be predicted.

  • Instructional Supports: Prior to the investigation, the lesson recommends setting up an area of the room with things that move (balls, tops, electronic toys, hot wheels, pinwheels, etc.) that will enable the teacher to build on student’s prior knowledge and provide a context for learning. The investigation provides students with first-hand experiences through which they can make sense of relevant phenomena. The lesson also provides recommendations for student reading of non-fiction books, with the selections are identified by reading level to provide for differentiated instruction. In addition, this resource provides “early finisher ideas” for quick learners. At the end of the lesson, discussion questions are provided that enable students to connect the explanation of the phenomenon to the observations and data from the investigation. It might be beneficial to scaffold the discussion by first having students discuss in pairs, followed by a whole class meaning-making meeting to provide an opportunity for students to share in a larger group, and allow teachers to clarify/correct as needed. Demonstration of the procedures, repetition of instruction, and visual media are suggested to provide additional differentiation for struggling students.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: At the conclusion of the lesson, student pairs are asked to compare two of the objects they tested and explain in their science journal why one moved further than the other. This provides formative assessment information. Additional formative data can be collected from the recorded data and observations in their science journal, and by observing the students during class discussions, and as they conduct their investigations. Summative data can be obtained by having students work independently in their journal and apply their learning to two different objects.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -