Questions of Gravity
This activity is currently available as first draft, ready for trial testing. The author respectfully requests that if you try out this activity, that you e-mail him (e-mail given in the activity write-up posted below) with feedback about what grade level you tried it with, how it went, and suggestions for improvement.
Download write-up for Questions of Gravity (Word, 146 KB)
The "Gravity Trick" opens the "Questions of Gravity" activity.
Questions of Gravity Outline
It's uncommon to have activities pertinent to the subject of gravity, other than high school or college level physics labs in mechanics. This activity is designed to be an introduction to the idea of gravity intended to lead to awareness of the pervasiveness of gravity in our everyday lives.
1. The Gravity Trick.
2. Gravity is everywhere. Ask the students if that magical force—gravity—acts on other objects as well. Explain that gravity is everywhere; that we are immersed in this “magical” force. Ask, “What's the source of this “magical” force—gravity—what's causing it?” [The Earth itself is the source.] Explain that not only are we immersed in the force, but we can never escape it, unless we leave Earth altogether and go very very far away from Earth. Even then, we'd be affected by the force of gravity caused by other bodies like planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and stars.
3. Examples of Questions of Gravity.
Question A: “If we have a nut and bolt and we have our choice of orientation of nut and bolt, which way is it easiest to screw the nut onto the bolt: nut on top (with bolt upside-down), nut to the side (with bolt horizontal), or nut underneath (with bolt right-side-up)?”
Question B: “Why is it hard to eat peas with a knife?” [Peas roll off the knife and fall off—from gravity.]
Question C: “Why were bowls invented?” [To hold things that are liquid or small things that can act like fluid, and keep them from falling away under the force of gravity.]
4. More Questions of Gravity. Challenge the class to make up more “Questions of Gravity”—questions where gravity plays into the answer somehow. This is a little like the game “Jeopardy,” where the challenge is to phrase your response as a question.