MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Identifying the force (push/pull) used to put sports equipment into motion

Identifying the force (push/pull) used to put sports equipment into motion

Deb Ose
Northside Elementary
Benson, MN
Based on Lakeshore Learning Science Activity Tub
Force & Motion - Language card Sport spotlight
Author Profile


Children discuss, observe and "play" with equipment used in familiar sports. Students brainstorm a list of familiar sports and the equipment used in the sports. They discuss how the equipment is used and predict how the equipment is put into motion or stopped from continuing to be in motion. Using the information gained during the exploration with equipment, the students will develop a recording method for the data collected. They will be able to predict how other equipment is put into motion in other sports. The students work in small groups and work on their communication skills as well. All groups should be able to present the information gathered, but may not have enough time to do so. A whole group chart is developed to display the information gathered by the class.

Learning Goals

Students will develop a deeper understanding that objects can either be at rest or in motion.
Students will observe that objects can be put into motion by a force: push, pull or twist.
Students will practice recording observed and collected data.
Concepts: The physical science concept that an object is put into motion by a force—in this case it could be push, pull or twist—will be observed, worked with, and recorded. The concept that an object can be at rest until a force (push, pull) is applied will also be addressed. Observation skills, communicating, recording data will be further developed during this lesson.
Vocabulary: push, pull, twist, force, motion, rest

Context for Use

This activity would be appropriate for learners in grades 1-2. The lesson begins brainstorming as a whole group and then breaks down into small groups for exploration with sports equipment. Slot about 45-60 minutes of time for the entire lesson. Prior discussions regarding force (push, pull, twist) should have taken place. This lesson may begin indoors in a regular classroom, and then possibly move to a bigger area for the exploration of the equipment. If moving to a new location, plan additional time for the lesson. Some prior classroom rules or procedures may need to be reviewed or established depending on how the teacher utilizes or conducts movement and equipment within the classroom. Develop small groups prior to the beginning of the lesson, consider group size, gender, strong personalities, levels of cooperation, be sure to include all levels of ability, etc. The number of groups depends on what equipment you feel comfortable allowing your students to work with. By the time we work with force, my students have recorded observations and data results in several different ways. I allow them to create their own recording system at this time of the year. A quick review of different recording methods may be appropriate depending on student levels.

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

Description and Teaching Materials

Sports equipment (small, appropriate for classroom (ex. bouncing balls, rope, hockey puck))
A variety of paper for students to create recording of data results
1. Gather students around the chart. Together brainstorm a list of sports students are familiar with. Discuss each sport listed, ask students to describe all the ways we move when playing the sport, as well as the equipment used to play the game.
2. Encourage words/phrases like we bounce, hit, kick, throw balls, we push hockey pucks, pull ropes, push water, etc. If the words "push, pull, and/or twist" have not been mentioned, draw them out of the students.
3. Explain that we are going to work with some of the equipment used in the sports listed. If you have equipment for sports not listed, add the sport to the list so you may include the equipment. Explain that we are discovering the way the equipment moves. Ask questions like the following: Notice if the equipment always moves the same way. Can you make the "ball" move by doing something different? How can you make the "ball" change directions? What if nothing is done to the equipment? What does that demonstrate? Show the students the equipment they will be using to explore. Record the all the data you collect.
4. Show the students the variety of paper for data recording. Ask students for ways to record the data, including reminders and quick sketches illustrating their ideas. Remind students of any appropriate rules and/or procedures for your classroom regarding the use of the sports equipment, working in small groups, and data recording.
5. Group the students according to your plans. Inform them to first decide on the recording method their group will use. Have them check-in with you or another adult to quickly explain or sketch their recording idea. Which paper will work best for your plan? Allow the group to gather the materials needed to record information. Provide the group with sports equipment. Check with each group. If guidance is needed, try asking questions to allow them to create their own system. Ask what should the data record show us? What will people/classmates want to know about what you discovered while working with the objects? How will you show the different ways different objects can be put into motion? They may want to draw pictures, put the information into columns, use Venn diagrams, etc.
6. When all groups have a plan for data collecting and they have their equipment, allow plenty of time for exploration. Be available for guidance and redirection when appropriate. Try to encourage thinking from the students; try to avoid providing them with the answers.
7. As groups finish, encourage group discussions. Does the record reflect what you discovered? Can every member of your group present this information to the class if asked? If not, talk about the information so everyone understands your results. Is your record easy to understand and read? Can you make it easier/clearer?
8. While groups are working, observe group dynamics, student involvement, student communication, data recording, etc. Watch for groups to present. Ask them prior to ending if their group would be willing to present their findings to the class. Will you need any of the equipment to demonstrate your findings?
9. Announce the procedure for collecting objects, gather together and allow group(s) to present their findings. Allow for questions of the group, either reinforcing the findings or questioning appropriately/respectfully.
10. As group(s) present, record information on a chart:

Hitting tennis ball
Kicking soccer ball
Bowling ball
Bowling pins

Bow and arrow

Check for understanding at a later time. Have each student select a sport or a piece of sport equipment and illustrate a picture demonstrating the action taking place in the sport. They should include arrows showing the direction of the action and an indication of the force being applied to the object to set it into motion. Write 1 or 2 sentences explaining the push or pull action required to play the sport.

Teaching Notes and Tips

If you haven't done a variety of data recording methods, you will want to provide the students with a specific format. This may eliminate possible snags in the progression of the lesson. It could be as simple as a two-column sheet with Push and Pull at the top of each column or a Venn Diagram with the same labels. I teach our physics unit in the spring so my students have had ample practice with different methods and have practiced recording data. Changing this part of the lesson will also change one of the goals and concepts being addressed.
Special attention should be given to the use of the sport equipment. If you do not have a procedure for this type of activity in your classroom you should address this with your students. Provide ample guidance to ensure the safety of all students.


Observation of the students working in their small groups and contribution made by each group member will be part of the goal assessment. During the group work, the questions posed to the groups should also be taken into consideration of understanding the goals and concepts. The data collected and recorded should be checked for accuracy of information. If a group recognizes that an object can be put into motion by more than one method, questions should be directed to the group for clarification, If the group is able to explain their thinking and it is correct that would be considered satisfactory.
The individual drawings and sentences done at a later date would be another indication of understanding. Are the students able to draw and label the force? Can they write or tell a sentence explaining the action happening in the drawing?


Physical Science—
D. Motion-
The student will know that objects move in various ways.
1. The student will observe that push and pull forces can make objects move.

References and Resources