What Goes Up Must Come Down!

Emily Morgan and Karen Ansberry
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
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 article features a  5E lesson using the children's book "Gravity" by Jason Chin.  It uses Page Keeley's formative assessment probe, "Tower Drop" and several videos in addition to the book. Students demonstrate their understanding by writing a letter to a friend visiting Australia afraid that he/she will fall off the Earth because of Australia’s location to convince him/her that this will not happen.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

5-PS2-1 Support an argument that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed down.

Clarification Statement: “Down” is a local description of the direction that points toward the center of the spherical Earth.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include mathematical representation of gravitational force.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The PBS Learning video of Felix Baumgartner, and book "Gravity" by Jason Chin are used to provide evidence to support the argument that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed down. The formative assessment, "Tower Drop" connects the engage phase with the evaluation phase. Students write their ideas on the probe at the beginning of the lesson. At the end of the lesson, they revisit the probe and revise their ideas as needed using evidence.

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
Students are using the book "Gravity" and several videos to obtain information that is used to explain their thinking in their responses to the formative assessment probe "Tower Drop" and the letter they write to their friend.

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

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students use the formative assessment probe "Tower Drop" during the 'Engage' phase to elicit student ideas about gravity. Students can reference their responses to this probe while constructing arguments supporting their answer with classmates. In the explore phase, students view a video of Felix Baumgartner falling to Earth from a stratospheric balloon 24 miles above Earth’s surface. Through this video and reading the book "Gravity", students gather evidence that supports or refutes their initial claims before revisiting the probe in the 'Evaluate' phase. In the evaluate phase, students write a letter to a friend going to visit Australia who is afraid that he will fall off the Earth since Australia is near the “bottom” of the Earth in an effort to convince him that this will not happen. In this letter, they would be constructing an argument using evidence gathered that gravitational force exerted by Earth pulls down.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This is explicitly addressed using the probe, videos and book in the lesson. It is the focus of the probe Tower Drop which initiates the instruction in the lesson.

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
Teachers should encourage students to use cause and effect language during the 'Explain' and 'Elaborate' phases of the lesson. Felix Baumgartner’s fall to Earth was caused by Earth’s gravity. Gravity caused Felix Baumgartner to fall downward and toward Earth's center. Additionally, students should be asked to include the crosscutting concept in their letters to their friend.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: There is explicit integration of elements of the science and engineering practices, Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information and Engaging in Argument From Evidence with the elements of the disciplinary core idea about gravity. The crosscutting concept is not explicit in the written lesson. A teacher should make it more explicit in the instruction. One way to do that would be to make it part of the questioning and discussion in the 'Explain' phase. Students could also be instructed to include cause and effect where it fits in the 'Elaborate' phase when they create a visual to demonstrate the paragraph they are assigned out of the book. Finally, cause and effect should be included in the letter that students write to their friend in the 'Evaluate' phase.

  • Instructional Supports: Using the Felix Baumgartner jump, provides an authentic application to this lesson. The lesson is written in 5E format and includes the purpose, materials list and internet resources list. One of the links in the resources section links to the main page, but not to the video referenced. It could not be found with a search by this writer. The link for the second Felix Baumgartner video that is (1:25 min) is dead, but all the other videos referenced are working links. There are plenty of others that serve the purpose so the missing video is not a loss. The probe can be downloaded from the Connections website linked from Science and Children. There are connections to Common Core English Language Arts standards as well. Integrating math would be appropriate here. For example, calculating changes in altitude or speed are tasks students could do that would contribute to their understanding of the science. There are no instructions for differentiating the lesson. The grouping of students in the 'Elaborate' phase may be a differentiation technique that could be used. In addition, scaffold may need to be provided for struggling writers as there is a significant amount of student writing in the lesson.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson has a variety of places where student progress would be monitored. A teacher would observe students discussions and drawings, check the Tower Drop probe, and evaluate their letter to the friend. There are no rubrics provided. The Tower Drop probe is referenced in the lesson and can be used to evaluate student responses. The letter to the friend visiting Australia could also be used to assess summatively.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is not an interactive technological component in this lesson.