Investigating Motion: Understanding Frame of Reference
In this lab activity, students investigate the concept of frame of reference by observing, describing and drawing the same walking motion from different positions. Additionally, they determine the effect of frame of reference on the walking time. Students analyze their data and observations and develop a working definition of the concept of frame of reference. A description of the lab report format is provided.
Key concepts: The motion of on object can be described.
An object in motion changes position.
How motion is perceived depends on your frame of reference.
Vocabulary words: frame of reference, motion, position, distance, displacement
Context for Use
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: Middle (6-8)
Description and Teaching Materials
stop when the walker stops at the finish line. The walker records his/her time on the lab report and repeats walking for a total of three trials. After three trials, each observer completes question number 1 in the data section on his/her own lab paper, describing in words and pictures, the motion from his/her frame of reference. When data has been recorded, group members switch positions and continue observing and timing until each group member has been in each position, including the walking position. When all data has been collected, students complete the lab handout. Closure will consist of whole group comparison of the descriptions and drawings of motion for the different frames of reference; this could include role playing and commentary. The lab report questions are reviewed and a class definition of frame of reference is written based on student input. Lab Report (Microsoft Word 89kB May16 11) Data Table (Microsoft Word 47kB May16 11)
Teaching Notes and Tips
- When presenting the activity, I would have a group of students demonstrate the positions and activities to the entire class.
- Instead of individuals completing their own lab reports, one group lab report could be completed and shared.
- If you don't have enough floor space, have students sit around a table and roll a marble or matchbox car down a ramp.
- Calculating and comparing speeds can become an extension of this activity.
- Drawings and descriptions can be presented at the classroom door as students leave (or the next day when they return) for a immediate check for understanding.
- Using pictures or video on an overhead or Smartboard, have students write a description of the motion from different frames of reference.
- Have students develop and share their own scenarios to use frame of reference to describe motion (football player running down field).
- Students write an article for Wikipedia describing frame of reference.
- Students are able to describe their own experiences in terms of frame of reference.