Richard Konicek-Moran
Type Category
Instructional Materials Assessment Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Assessment Item , 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.



In this "Everyday Science Mystery" students are asked to investigate why Jimmy was able to go down a new slide very quickly while dressed in jeans, but struggled down the slide when wearing shorts the next day. This resource is presented as an anchoring phenomenon to drive a series of student-led investigations but could also be used as a summative assessment.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
  • Early Elementary
  • Grade 3
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

3-PS2-1 Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.

Clarification Statement: Examples could include an unbalanced force on one side of a ball can make it start moving; and, balanced forces pushing on a box from both sides will not produce any motion at all.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to one variable at a time: number, size, or direction of forces. Assessment does not include quantitative force size, only qualitative and relative. Assessment is limited to gravity being addressed as a force that pulls objects down.

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
The dilemma of the story presents itself as an anchoring phenomenon. A discussion of what Jimmy could do to improve his ride down the slide is recommended to follow the story. It is then suggested that the students possible responses be turned into testable questions that could drive a student-led investigation. The effects of forces acting on an object are discussed at length in the content background that is provided for teachers. As it relates to the scenario however, it is discussed in terms of net forces. Once the students have concluded their investigations, the teacher will need to explicitly discuss their results in terms of balanced and unbalanced forces. A scientist meeting is suggested where students could discuss the various investigations they conducted and evidences of when the forces were balanced and unbalanced. A driving question might be "When in the story was were the balanced forces evident? Unbalanced?" Doing this early in the work would elicit students current understandings, a formative assessment and allow for it to be used later as a more summative assessment of student thinking. Students should then return to the anchoring phenomenon at the conclusion of the discussion to apply this understanding and explain why Jimmy had difficulty with his ride down the slide when wearing his shorts.

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
Among the suggestions provided by the class, students could test various materials to see which ones would provide a faster or slower trip down an incline. In allowing the students to drive the investigation, they may have their own ideas as to how the effects of frictional force on objects could be tested. For example, they may choose to conduct their investigation using the playground slide itself, thereby providing a great opportunity for learning to occur outside the confines of the classroom. If a playground slide is not available or there is inclement weather, using small blocks with various grades of sandpaper and various lubricants across a horizontal board is suggested as an alternative. Regardless of the procedure, students will make observations and relative measurements (as indicated by the Assessment Boundary) to produce data that will serve as the basis for explanation of the phenomenon of why Jimmy struggled with his ride down the slide. Finally, a discussion regarding the controlling of variables and the need for replicable trials should occur as students plan their investigations to ensure the validity of their data.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Through their investigations students will learn that the roughness of surfaces contributes to the friction or force that opposes the force of objects sliding down an incline. In the dilemma, Jimmy’s skin provided more friction than when he was wearing jeans, resulting in a difficult ride down the slide.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Through their investigations students will observe that the rougher the surface of the objects being tested (cause), the slower the slide down an incline (effect). It is recommended that the teacher probes for cause and effect relationships as the students conduct their investigations, and explicitly discuss the relationships between the causes (amount of oppositional force) and their effects on the motion of the objects as they discuss the results of their investigations.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource provides the opportunity for students to plan and conduct a phenomena-driven investigation. Engaging in multiple investigations will allow students to make meaning of friction, as an oppositional force, providing many opportunities to deepen learning. They will apply their understanding of various forces on the motion of objects. It will also enable them to identify the cause and effect relationships that explain the changes they will observe as they determine a solution to the dilemma presented in the story. This resource supports students three-dimensional learning to make sense of phenomena.

  • Instructional Supports: This resource engages students in a meaningful scenario that provides them with a purpose for learning. Upon reading the story, it recommends that student’s prior knowledge be elicited by having brainstorm solutions to real life scenarios they have all experienced (i.e., carpet burns, skinned knees). It provides teachers with extensive content background, ensuring scientifically accurate information to support student’s learning. It provides many ideas for how the story can be used for students ranging from K-8. It is suggested that some of the ideas for older students be used as extensions for students with high interest or who have already met the performance expectations. Finally, it references an NSTA article that can be used to support the learning of younger students titled, "Science Shorts, Knowing Newton".

  • Monitoring Student Progress: There is no assessment discussion in this resource as it is an engagement tool that provides a meaningful scenario for investigating how forces affect the motion of objects. Formatively, assessment would be occurring as teachers make observations and engage in discussions with their students as they conduct their investigations. Recordings in their student notebooks would provide additional formative assessment information. Summatively, the teacher could have students make a claim supported by evidence from their investigations to solve the dilemma as to why was Jimmy’s ride down the slide was so difficult on the second day when compared to the first day. It is important to remind students that they should discuss how objects exert forces on each other (in this case, Jimmy’s skin on the slide surface) and how it results in balanced and unbalanced forces as they respond to solving the dilemma.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -