Unit Overview

In the Force & Motion unit, students are led through a progression of three inquiry lessons that focus on force, motion, and energy transfer.

Lesson Overview

Medium screen shot 2018 12 13 at 10.52.50 amSolve: Levitating Car + Haunted Supermarket Mystery
Medium cycling bicycle riding sport 38296Make: Determine How Force and Mass Impact Motion
Medium shopping cart 2614015 960 720Engineer: Build a Rube Goldberg Machine with Requirements

There are two options for The Solve! Choose to have your students either solve a live caught-on-camera video mystery on why cars and trucks appear to be levitating or an animated mystery on why items in a haunted supermarket appear to be moving without anyone touching them. By the end of The Solve, students will discover that even though an event may seem inexplicable, there are often natural laws behind it. (80 minutes)

After reviewing forces that impact motion, students complete three investigations to discover how force and mass impact motion. Students relate each investigation to Newton’s Laws and present digital evidence collected from each investigation in order to validate each of Newton’s Laws. (200 minutes)

Students will design, construct and test a new shopping cart that can withstand collisions to keep precious cargo safe inside. Students pitch their idea in a Shark Tank setting to determine whose design gets funded. (250 minutes)

Next Generations Science Standards

Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.
Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.

Science & Engineering Practices

  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Communicating Findings/Design (Oral Presentation)
  • Constructing Explanations or Arguments From Evidence
  • Designing Solutions
  • Developing and Using Models
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
  • Definitions of Energy
  • Forces and Motion
  • Relationship Between Energy and Forces

Cross Cutting Concepts

  • Energy and Matter
  • Stability and Change
  • Systems and System Models

Inquiry Scale

  • Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
  • “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
  • For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.

Common Misconceptions

  • Learners often think of friction as its own separate concept rather than an example of a force acting on objects in motion. During the animation, emphasize this.
  • Learners initially have trouble understanding that objects in motion will stay in motion unless a force acts upon it because gravity and friction are not visual phenomena that they can see, but they can feel. In this sledding example, gravity is pulling the sled down the hill, and the snow applies very little friction. What would it be like sledding on grass?
  • Learners often think of the word “force” as something deliberate, in accordance with their life experience, so emphasize in reference to the animation that even stationary objects that are holding things up are also applying a force.
  • Students may think that the outcome of every collision is the same. Emphasize to students that the strength of a collision depends on the mass, direction and speed of objects that collide.


    • Motion
    • Friction
    • Gravity
    • Applied Force

Content Expert

  • Hans C. von Baeyer
    Chancellor Professor of Physics, Emeritus College of William and Mary


  • Powerpoints for Make and Design
  • Vocabulary Cards
  • Solve Student Handout
  • Make Student Handout
  • Design Student Handout
  • Vocabulary Mind Map