MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Investigating Motion: What Causes Objects to Move?

Investigating Motion: What Causes Objects to Move?

Jeanne Mack, Matoska International School, White Bear Lake, MN
Lesson plan motivated by the nonfiction book Move It! by Jamie Schroeder, Benchmark Education
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Students will have an opportunity to determine what makes everyday objects move. Students will be given objects and asked to make predictions on how far each object will move after they blow on it. Then they will measure the distance and record their observations in their science journals. After their science investigation into motion students will read Move It! by Jaime A. Schroeder (Benchmark Education Level M) to reinforce this learning activity.

Learning Goals

Using observation skills and data analysis students will investigate:
a) what causes objects to move
b) what causes some objects to move farther than others

Key vocabulary words:
Force: any cause that makes on object move or stop
Mass: weight of an object
Friction: a force that happens when one object rubs against another object
(Definitions taken from Move It! by Jaime A. Schroeder (Benchmark Education Company)

Context for Use

Grade Level: 2nd
Class size: 20 – 30 students
Lab exercise – classroom
Time: One 45 minute class periods
Skills needed before activity: measuring with a cm ruler
Lab exercise can be easily adapted to any environment/number of children or method of learning (cooperative group, individual, and partners)

Subject: Physics:Classical Mechanics
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Primary (K-2)

Description and Teaching Materials

Materials needed for Teacher Demonstration:
beach ball
bowling ball

Materials Needed for Student Investigation:
1 per student:
Science journal

1 for each pair of students:
cm ruler
3 to 4 everyday objects (pattern block, unsharpened pencil, small paper clip, foam ball and a heavy object such as a stapler, are a few suggestions)
white board marker

Before doing the following activities have kids read one of the following nonfiction books about force and motion. I would do this in my guided reading groups.
What is Motion? By Mary Clare Goller, level G
Push, Pull, Lift! , level I
Moving with Machines, level K
Move It! by Jaime A. Schroeder, level M
Forces and Motion on Earth by Glen Phelan, level V
Forces and Motion in Sports by Glen Phelan, level W
All titles can be purchased from Benchmark Education and each book covers the big idea of forces and motion and beyond.

A day or two before teaching the lesson set up an area of the room with things that move (balls, tops, electronic toys, hot wheels, pinwheels etc. -use your imagination!) I call this an "artifacts table". Do not tell kids what it is for. This artifact table begins to build curiosity and excitement about what might be coming next. They can explore for a few minutes and play with the items when you get done with a lesson early. They usually ask questions but I never tell them what the concept is until we start the unit.

Anticipatory set:
Ask: What causes objects to move?
Have students think by themselves, pair up and talk and then share their ideas with the class.
Record student responses on whiteboard
Ask: What would happen if I hit this beach ball with a bat? (have in your hand like you are ready to strike it)
Let students predict/discuss
Gently hit beach ball with bat and discuss what happened.
Ask: What would happen if I hit this bowling ball with a bat?
Let students predict/discuss
Hold bowling ball in palm of hand and hit it with the bat with the same force you hit the beach ball – basically the bowling ball doesn't move.
Ask: What happened and why?
Student's think, pair share
Guide the discussion towards the bat being a force on an object (bowling and beach ball). The beach ball traveled a further distance when hit (beach ball) because it had less mass. Bowling ball didn't move because mass is resistant to force.

Student Activity/Experiment
Purpose: To explore what makes objects move

Explain to students that they will be in pairs and they will have an opportunity to experiment to find out why objects move and why some objects move farther than other objects.

1. On a flat, smooth, surface (not a lot of friction) such as a table or their desk top, students can use an erasable whiteboard marker to make a 4cm "start line".
2. Student will then choose an object and predict how far the object will move when one of them blows on that object.
3. Students record the name of object #1 in their science journal and their prediction of how far it will move when blown on.
4. After making a prediction place the object on the "start line" and one student blows on it.
5. The second student marks where the object stopped moving.
6. Together the students measure the distance the object moved, using their cm ruler, and each student records this in their journal.
7. Repeat steps 2 through 6 for the rest of the objects in their science journals.

Early finisher ideas: have both kids blow on the objects at the same time and see what happens. Have students choose their own objects in the room, predict how far they will go blow on them and record their results. Have students choose a different surface area (carpet, grass, etc.) and see what happens when they blow on their objects.

8. After students have finished the activity, cleaned off the white board marker marks and returned supplies ask some or all of the following questions as a whole class:
What caused your objects to move? (blowing on them – we call this a force or a push)
Were your predictions close to your actual findings? Why or why not?
What did you use to make your predictions?
Why did the pattern block move farther than the stapler (mass is a resistance to force)
Why did the foam ball go the farthest? (less surface area on the ball touching the desk which causes less friction, mass was lighter so less resistance to moving) Nice segue into a discussion on friction if appropriate. Rough vs smooth surfaces...

Closing activity:
Turn to your partner and explain what causes objects to move. Compare and discuss two of the objects you blew on to make them move and in your science journal in a sentence or two explain why one moved further than the other.

Read Move It! by Jaime A. Schroeder, as a read aloud to the whole class to reinforce the concepts learned today or start the next lesson with this nonfiction book.

As an extension to this activity students can visit their playground and identify where push, pull, and gravity cause motion.

Teaching Notes and Tips

For second grade students it is important to have a well thought out plan for handing out materials. This helps with the classroom management of students. The Foss Science Motion kit is taught by our 1st grade team even though the standard is at the 2nd grade level. This is a new lesson at the 2nd grade level that should reinforce the concepts they learned in the previous year.


In a partnership students will compare and discuss two of the objects they blew on to make them move and in their science journal in a sentence or two explain why one moved further than the other. The science journals will be handed in for the teacher to review.


2nd grade
Substrand = Motion
Standard = the motion of an object can be changed by push or pull forces
Benchmarks Describe how push and pull forces can make objects move

References and Resources

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