Collision Course

Better Lesson: Justin Price
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , 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 two-part lesson plan focuses on the question, "How can you plan and conduct an experiment to explain how speeds change when objects collide?" It is the second lesson of a unit developed to explore this question. The lesson starts with videos of bowling as a "hook" to prompt learning about energy and speed. Students then have the opportunity to design their own investigations using common materials (cars, balls, meter sticks, blocks, ramps) to change one variable and collect evidence the speed of objects changes when they collide. To see the rest of the unit, including part 2 of the lesson, click on “Lesson 2” at the top of the lesson plan screen.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

4-PS3-3 Ask questions and predict outcomes about the changes in energy that occur when objects collide.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the change in the energy due to the change in speed, not on the forces, as objects interact.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measurements of energy.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In this lesson students develop their own questions and make predictions about what will happen when objects collide.

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 teacher could add a discussion about why scientists often use multiple trials in an investigation and encourage students to do so.

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 concept of energy transfer is not a explicitly taught in this lesson, however it could easily be added by using guiding questions. Why did the bowling pins move? (The ball hit them.) Where did the energy come from to move the the pins? (From the ball.) What happened to the speed of the ball? (It slowed down.) When one object gives energy to another object, we call it energy transfer. Energy from the ball also creates the sound you hear when it hits the pins.

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 concept of energy transfer is present throughout the lesson, but is not explicitly stated.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: In this lesson, student questions drive the investigation about the phenomenon of energy transfer when objects collide. In a video link the lesson author talks about the value of having students develop their own map for learning, despite the challenges that come with giving students autonomy. The practices are woven throughout the exploration of energy.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson has two parts to allow the teacher to assess student progress and help students make adjustments to their plan as needed. Specific scaffolds or extensions are not included.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The plans for the student investigation provide a formative assessment at the end of day one. Throughout the lesson, students explain their thinking both orally and in writing and get feedback from peers and the teacher. There is a rubric provided for writing with claims and evidence.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is no interactive technology in the lesson for students. Teachers should be sure to click all the links in the lesson to see student work samples and tips.