This activity can be adapted for many ages and skill levels and still be great fun.
- popsicle stick/paint stirrer
- coins/legos/other small objects to use as weights
- and something to balance on: we usually use the back of a chair.
Make Some Predictions about the Center of Gravity:
- Show your learner a popsicle stick and ask them to make a prediction about where they need to place the stick for it to balance on the other object. Mark that location. Give them the stick and let them see. Many students will pick the middle. No matter what they pick, ask them why they picked the spot that they did? They may have just guessed or they may have noticed that if you put many objects on their center they will be balanced.
- Ask Questions? It encourages your little learner to ask questions when you model it for them. Create lots of “What if …” scenarios. This is digging deep into observation and prediction skills. What will happen if we move the stick? What will happen if we put legos/coins on the stick?
Now we can do some Math and Science….
- Take a piece of paper the length of the stick and fold in half. Lay it beside the stick and mark the mid-point. This is where you can introduce the idea of symmetry and fractions (depending on the age/ability of the learner). The midpoint should be the center of gravity and balance on the stick without coins or other weights.
- As you add additional weight, you can talk about unequal and equal weight distributions. Talk about and demonstrate how the center of gravity is changed when the weight is not equal on both sides (this means that it will no longer balance in the center). Some things to look for
Ask more Questions.
- Where is the balance point shifted as the weight changes- closer to the heavier side or lighter side or the same distance from each side?
- As the weight changes does the point of the center of gravity remain at a symmetrical location? You may need to explain symmetry.
- You could also begin to explore ratios by having students actually measure the change in the position of the center of gravity in respect to the location and/or amount of weight. In other words, if I move the left weight in by an inch where will the center of gravity move and by how much?
- You could use a balance scale to discuss how the center of gravity is used in measurement.
- The options for study are endless. This can help those reluctant math people to engage in math. Remember,as you explore, to work at the level of the learner that you have and HAVE FUN!
My guys really enjoyed this activity. As you might be able to see, one of my kiddos is dancing in a picture because he got the coins to balance. I hope you have as much fun as we had with this activity. Please share and don’t forget there is more on my pinterest boards.